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The Coming Geographical Shift in Africa’s LNG Industry by Senegal, Congo, Mauritania, Mozambique, and Tanzania

The global liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry has experienced a great deal of turmoil and turnover over the last few years.

By NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman, African Energy Industry

The global liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry has experienced a great deal of turmoil and turnover over the last few years. It has seen demand and price levels fluctuate wildly in the short term in the face of geopolitical shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and it has had to face tough questions about its future in the face of widespread concern about fossil fuels’ role in climate change.

Africa’s LNG sector has not been immune to this tumult. It has seen major projects delayed, revamped, and occasionally even canceled in response to the pandemic, and it has attracted new attention from European investors keen to secure supply alternatives to Russian gas. (It’s also had to argue for its own right to move forward with development, pitted against environmental activists and government officials determined to block fossil fuel projects, even in the face of Africa’s continued energy poverty.)

But these high-level trends aren’t the only sources of change for the African LNG industry. There are other developments in the pipeline, as the African Energy Chamber (AEC) details in its recently released report, “The State of African Energy Q2 2023 Outlook.”

I’d like to highlight one of these shifts here.

Short-Term Status Quo

Earlier this year, the AEC noted in “The State of African Energy Q1 2023 Report,” that the African continent was on track to see its LNG production and export capacity grow significantly.

The report predicted that this growth would occur partly on the back of new greenfield projects off the coast of countries including Senegal, Congo, Mauritania, Mozambique, and Tanzania and partly due to capacity expansion in established gas-producing states such as Algeria, Nigeria, and Angola. It also explained that established producers would account for the largest share of growth in the short term, as new entrants into the sector would not be in a position to make major contributions until considerably later in the decade.

The AEC expects this forecast to hold true, and the new quarterly report states that Nigeria and Algeria are set to remain Africa’s leading suppliers of LNG between 2023 and 2027. It also notes, though, that the African gas sector’s center of gravity is undergoing a geographical shift — namely, a shifting of the balance from north and west to the east, roughly speaking.

A Shift Toward East Africa

Currently, seven African countries produce LNG for export: Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Angola, and Mozambique. Four of these countries (Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, and Angola) lie on Africa’s west coast, while another two (Egypt and Algeria) are in the north, along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Only one (Mozambique) lies on Africa’s eastern coast — and it is, for the record, the newest entrant into the ranks of LNG producers.

Several additional countries are looking to join these ranks by 2035, including Senegal, Mauritania, the Republic of Congo, Tanzania, and Ethiopia. Furthermore, both Nigeria and Mozambique aim to bring multiple new LNG plants online to supplement existing facilities.

In other words, Africa can expect to see multiple new LNG production units built on both the west and the east coasts over the next decade. But as “The State of African Energy Q2 2023 Outlook” notes, construction will not be evenly balanced between the two coastlines.

Instead, East Africa will account for the greater share, as the facilities coming on stream in Mozambique, Tanzania, and Ethiopia will be larger in scale and will have a larger combined capacity than their counterparts in the Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Senegal, and Mauritania. For example, the Republic of Congo is looking to use gas from the offshore Marine XII block to supply two floating LNG (FLNG) vessels that can turn out 3 million tonnes per annum (MMtpa), while Tanzania is looking to use gas from offshore sites known as Blocks 1, 2, and 4 to supply an onshore LNG plant that can turn out 15 MMtpa.

This is not an isolated instance. There are comparable differences in scale between, say, the FLNG unit that the British giant BP will produce 5 MMtpa of LNG from the Greater Tortue Ahmeyim (GTA) block off the coast of Senegal and Mauritania and the 12.88 MMtpa onshore plant that France’s TotalEnergies is building in Mozambique.

So it seems that Africa’s LNG industry is heading for a geographical shift to the east. Of course, there will be new LNG production capacity coming online along the west coast. However, there will be quite a bit more new LNG production capacity coming online along the east coast.

Long Timelines for Geographical Shifts

But there are also significant differences in the timelines for expansion along the two coasts, as the west-coast projects are due to become operational far sooner than the east-coast projects.

For example, the Republic of Congo is on track to see its first FLNG begin operating by the end of 2023, followed by Senegal and Mauritania with GTA in early 2024. By contrast, TotalEnergies’ Mozambique LNG plant is not expected to begin commercial operations before 2027 or 2028, and Tanzania is not likely to follow suit until 2030 at the earliest since it will not even make a final investment decision (FID) until 2025.

Moreover, Tanzania LNG is not the only east-coast project that has yet to reach the active stage. In Mozambique, for example, U.S.-based ExxonMobil is also expected to wait until 2025 to make an FID on its Rovuma LNG project, while Italy’s Eni has only recently begun discussions with officials in Maputo on using a second FLNG vessel for the proposed Coral Norte project.

In other words, the African LNG sector’s shift to the east is going to take time. Indeed, it probably won’t be evident until late in the decade, as the new-build projects with the shortest timelines are targeting the continent’s western coast.

Moreover, even as the new west-coast plants come online, they’ll continue to be overshadowed by the larger facilities in established LNG-producing states. As such, the shift away from existing industry heavyweights such as Algeria and Nigeria is also going to take time.

For more insights on LNG projects and other developments in the African natural gas sector, download “The State of African Energy Q2 2023 Report” on the African Energy Chamber’s website.

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