March 2024, Vol. 251, No. 3


Why Morocco Remains Keen on Pipeline Project with Nigeria

By Shem Oirere, P&GJ Africa Correspondent 

(P&GJ) — Morocco has re-affirmed its commitment to the construction of a new gas pipeline network along the West Africa coastline to promote intra-Africa natural gas trade, as well as to guarantee energy supplies to Europe.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco says fast-tracking the implementation of the 3,479-mile (5,600-km) Morocco-Nigeria natural gas pipeline project will not only enable access to the Atlantic Ocean by countries in West Africa, but also boost ongoing efforts to address the significant deficit in transportation infrastructure and investment along the Atlantic coastline. 

King Mohammed, who spoke during the 48th anniversary of Morocco’s Green March, which celebrates Moroccans’ advances against the Spanish colonization of the North African country’s southern provinces, said the $25 billion pipeline project would boost the upgrading of infrastructure in the Africa’s Sahel countries hence promote security and stability. 

“Morocco is willing to put its road, port and rail infrastructure at the disposal of these sister countries, since we believe that such an initiative will bring about a fundamental transformation not only in the economies of these countries, but also in the entire region,” he said. 

In the last two years, the Morocco-Nigeria Gas Pipeline (MNGP) project has evolved from being a two-country undertaking to a multination project after several countries signed on, creating one of the largest gas pipeline infrastructures in Africa. The first group of West Africa countries signed in October 2022. 

The agreement now is between Morocco and Nigeria, and the West African countries of Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Benin and Guinea, all members of the Nigeria-based Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional political and economic union of 15 countries in West Africa. 

The deal will integrate the NMGP with the 20-inch West Africa Gas Pipeline (WAGP), which is owned and operated by the Ghana-based West African Gas Pipeline Company Limited (WAGPCo) and has a discharge capacity of 176 Bcf/a (5 Bcm/a). 

The 420-mile (678-km) WAGP gas pipeline links into the existing 273-mile (439-km) Escravos-Lagos pipeline, which is owned and operated by the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC), a government entity, and runs from the Itoki natural gas export terminal in Nigeria to a beachhead near the country’s coastal city of Lagos. 

The agreement, according to Morocco’s State-owned National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines (ONHYM), confirms “the commitment of ECOWAS and the involvement of all the crossed countries to contribute to the feasibility of this important project, which will supply gas to all West African countries and will enable a new export route to Europe.” 

In December 2022, additional ECOWAS countries signed into the NMGP project, including The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone and Ghana. This paved the way for governments in West Africa to approve a proposal to have WAGP extension project integrated with the NMGP project. 

“The project will supply about three billion standard cubic feet of gas per day along the West African coastline to Morocco,” the NNPC said in a statement posted on Twitter. 

In June 2023, national energy companies including NNPC and ONHYM signed the deal with Société Nationale des Opérations Pétrolières of Cote d’Ivoire (PETROCI), the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), the Société Nationale des Hydrocarbures of Benin (SNH-Benin) and the Société Nationale des Pétroles of the Republic of Guinea (SONAP) to support the merger of the NMGP with WAGP. 

“This project is designed to promote regional integration, boost joint economic growth and serve development objectives in the countries bordering the Atlantic,” said King Mohammed. 

WAGPCo  said it considers “the Nigeria-Morocco Gas Pipeline project an opportunity for its West African Gas Pipeline Extension Project due to the similarities between the two projects, which called for the pooling of efforts to achieve a single gas pipeline project.”

(Map: WAPCo)

In Morocco, the pipeline is expected to be connected to the 1,007-mile (1,620-km) Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline that links Algerian gas fields, via Morocco with Spanish and Portuguese gas grids. 

However, the $2.3 billion pipeline previously constructed by Bechtel and Saipem, ceased operations in October 2021 at the end of a 25-year operation contract between Morocco and Algeria, a move attributed to political conflict between the two Maghreb countries. Currently, Algeria, which has 320-mile (515 km) of the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline, transports its gas to Spain through the 470-mile (757-km) subsea Medgaz pipeline. 

Nigeria appears spoiled for choice when it comes to new natural gas pipeline investments with an eye on the European energy markets. 

While the West African country, which held an estimated 206.5 Tcf of proven natural gas reserves at the beginning of 2023, is committed to the NMGP project, it has also signed an agreement Algeria, the 10-largest proven natural gas reserves globally and the world’s fourth-largest gas exporter, for development of an alternative natural gas pipeline through the Sahara Desert that will ultimately supply the European market. 

The June 2022 agreement between Algeria and Nigeria is for the construction of the proposed 2,565-mile (4,128-km) Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline that will link the two countries through Niger. At least 1,434 miles (2,309 km) of the pipeline’s distance will be built in Algeria. 

Although timelines for the construction of this Nigeria-Algeria natural gas pipeline have yet to be confirmed, the U.S. International Trade Administration estimates the cost of the pipeline at $ 13 billion. 

ITA says at least $10 billion would be required for equipment and construction, and another $3 billion for development of new gas gathering stations. 

“Despite scepticism from international energy experts that African natural gas will flow through a trans-Saharan pipeline anytime soon, the project may become a reality following subsequent European natural gas supply shortages resulting from the halting flow of Russian-European gas,” ITA said. 

Moreover, the African Energy Chamber said, “investing in regional pipeline infrastructure will not only enhance energy security but also stimulate economic growth, generate employment opportunities, enhance the knowledge base of local enterprises and empower communities in the energy industry.” 

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