Algeria, Niger and Nigeria have signed a memorandum of understanding to build a natural gas pipeline. At a ceremony in Algiers on Thursday, the two west African countries officially entered a partnership with Algeria to build a US$ 13 billion (€ 12.75 billion) trans-Saharan pipeline that will pass through the three countries.
The pipeline is projected to send up to 30 billion cubic metres of supplies to Europe yearly. The gas will pass from Nigeria to Niger and on to Algeria. From there, it could then be pumped through the undersea Trans-Mediterranean Pipeline to Europe or loaded onto Liquefied Natural Gas tankers for export.
The pipeline, which is expected to be more than 4,000 km long, will start in Warri, Nigeria and end in Hassi R'Mel, Algeria.
The MoU was signed by the Algerian Minister of Energy and Mines Mohamed Arkab, Nigerian Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Timipre Sylva, and Niger Minister of Energy and Renewable Energy Mahamane Sani Mahamadou.
The pipeline idea was first proposed about 4 decades ago, and an agreement was even signed between the countries in 2009 with the goal of commissioning it in 2015. However, the project was shelved due to various reasons.
Two of such reasons were security concerns over the Sahel region of which Niger and Nigeria are part, and tensions between the Algerian and Nigerien government.
When Algeria and Niger reopened their border in 2021, discussions to construct the pipeline reopened.
However, the project was not seriously revived till June this year, when the three countries realised this was a prime time to capitalise on the European Union’s desire to diversify its gas sources away from Russia, in light of the Ukraine-Russia war.
Just this week, EU member states agreed to reduce their gas consumption in light of growing concerns that Russia might completely cut off already dwindling deliveries.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had said the agreement was about preventing Russia from being able to blackmail the EU by “using gas as a weapon”.
Arkab said after the signing ceremony that the three countries were looking to complete the project as quickly as possible.
However, there are some concerns over the logistics and security of the pipeline.
“A pipeline like this would be hugely vulnerable, not just to attacks by jihadists, but also by local communities if they feel they’re getting exploited by a project from which they derive no benefit,” said Geoff D. Porter, an energy expert with North Africa Risk Consulting.
This is especially true in Nigeria’s oil-producing states where people seek any means to survive amidst harsh economic realities.
Porter also raised the question of financing.
Sources: Reuters, DW, Voice of Nigeria.