Russia-Ukraine war and global gas supply: Nigeria as `a buffer’

The Russia and Ukraine standoff, vis a vis boycott of Russian gas has triggered significant disruptions and created a huge shortage in global gas supply chain.

Available data indicate that Russia is the world’s largest natural gas exporter; exporting 238 billion cubic meters in 2020 and accounting for about 45 per cent the EU’s imports in 2021.

It implies that any dislodgement in Russia’s gas supply would leave a deep crater which must be exploited by Nigeria, with natural gas reserve of 209.5 trillion cubic feet.

Perceptive stakeholders hold that the economic trump card of sanctions on Russia for Nigeria, as a ranking gas producing and exporting nation, is immense.

Expectedly, Nigeria is savouring the prospects of being a buffer and cashing in on the void.

President Muhammadu Buhari, while on a state visit to Portugal recently, indicated that Nigeria is ready to fill the natural gas gaps in Europe predicated by the current Russian-Ukrainian war.

Buhari said with over 200 million mainly young people, Nigeria was ready to be the hub of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).

The president urged Portugal to consider Nigeria as a valued and trusted partner in Africa.

He identified key areas of cooperation and collaboration capable of moving both countries forward as oil and gas, tourism and hospitality industry, air travel, security and joint commission.

“At a time the world is going through turbulent times, we feel that a strong friendship and partnership between Nigeria and Portugal can act as a force for good.

“With the current Russian-Ukraine war, increased cooperation in oil and gas between the two countries has become vital to avoid crisis in the demand and supply chain, even as Nigeria is already a major supplier of gas to Portugal,’’ he said.

The president added that Nigeria and Portugal could cooperate closely on a range of agricultural and renewable energy projects.

To add some verve to Nigeria’s drive to reap from gap in the global gas supply chain, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) recently presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo approved for the NNPC to enter into agreement with ECOWAS for the construction of the Nigeria-Morocco Gas Pipeline.

Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, who made the disclosure, said that the project was still at the point of the front end engineering design, after which the cost would be determined.

The pipeline would traverse 15 West African countries to Morocco and Spain.

“The Ministry of Petroleum Resources presented three memos to Council.

“The first memo, council approved for the NNPC Ltd to execute MoU with ECOWAS for the construction of the Nigeria-Morocco Gas Pipeline.

“This gas pipeline is to take gas to 15 West African countries and to Morocco and through Morocco to Spain and Europe.’’

The minister said that the council also approved the construction of a switch gear room and installation of power distribution cables and equipment for the Nigeria Oil and Gas Park in Ogbia, Bayelsa. The cost of the project was put at N3.8billion.

He said that the park was to support local manufacturing of components for the oil and gas industry.

Nigeria-Morocco Gas Pipeline was proposed in a December 2016 agreement between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Moroccan Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines (National Board of Hydrocarbons and Mines) (ONHYM).

The pipeline would connect Nigerian gas to every coastal country in West Africa (Benin, Togo, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia, Senegal and Mauritania), ending at Tangiers, Morocco, and Cádiz, Spain.

Sylva also elucidated on Nigeria’s readiness to offer its services as an alternative gas supplier to Europe when he received a delegation, led by Samuela Isopi, EU’s Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS.

He urged EU to increase investments in gas and hydrocarbons in Nigeria to be able to meet the bloc’s energy needs.

The minister implored the EU to encourage its oil and gas companies such as Shell, Eni, and Total Energies to scale up investments in the Nigerian gas sector.

“One of the things we warned against earlier was the speed with which the EU was taking away investments in fossil fuels.

“We warned that the speed was faster than they were developing renewable energy; you can see now that what we were warning against is what is happening now.”

He told the delegation that what stunted growth in the development of gas in Nigeria was fresh investments, and called for a change of attitude on the part of the EU, if its requests to increase supplies to Europe would be realised.

The minister said that one of the biggest challenges the sector faces was lack of investments.

“In the last 10 years, over 70 billion dollars worth of investments came to Africa, but sadly less than four billion dollars came to Nigeria.

“Surprisingly, we are the biggest in Africa; if we cannot attract investments to Nigeria, you know where we are heading.

“You have been our long time friend; as at today, our gas reserve is one of the biggest in the world; we have a proven gas reserve of 206 tcf and if we really focus on gas exploitation we can get up to 600 tcf.

“We are already building gas infrastructure such as the Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) pipeline project, expected to take gas to Algeria, and the West Africa Gas Pipeline project designed to take gas to Morroco.”

The minister said that due to the Russia-Ukraine war, the EU must have a buffer or an alternative source of gas.

“We would like to be reliable partners to solve the energy problem in Europe and we can only achieve this by working together.

“It is only when investment in these areas is increased that Nigeria can meet that obligation,” he said.

Sharing similar sentiments, Sarah Anyanwu, Professor of Development, Department of Economics, University of Abuja, said it was ample opportunity for Nigeria to increase production.

Anyanwu said that Nigeria had surplus gas and called on the concerned authorities to up the ante.

“We have been talking on the issues of diversifying the economy; so, these are the areas apart from oil that government should cease the opportunity and key into.

“We have areas to explore and make more foreign exchange earnings.

“Not only Nigeria, OPEC countries should step up; that’s an opportunity for us to make more money from gas; it lies in increasing production.

“The glut globally is for our good. Nigeria should cease the opportunity; increase production and breakthrough from this mono-cultural economy,’’ she said.

Experts are of the submission that the diversification mantra has reverberated for many years; hence the urgent need for pragmatic steps.

They say that the interregnum in global gas supply presents a gaping opportunity for Nigeria to ramp up gas export and reap bountifully from a ready market.(NAN)

•PHOTO: Timipre Sylva