Sahara Gas Pipeline

Brian Hicks

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted July 15, 2009

The threat of guerrilla attacks and al-Qaeda sabotage isn’t keeping Europe from pushing for a new pipeline…

Along more than 2,500 miles from Nigeria and then through Niger, the Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline will deliver natural gas to Europe from Algeria, which is Africa’s largest natural gas exporter.

Rebels in Nigeria have already pledged to sabotage the conduit—even though construction won’t even start until 2015.

And of course al-Qaeda and its affiliates are licking their chops at the prospect of disrupting a major supplier of EU energy.

Yet the $13 billion project is moving forward after an official agreement between the 3 governments was inked in early July.

The BBC’s Africa analyst Richard Hamilton says it will be one of the "great feats" of international engineering, and many Europeans think it’s a necessity to avoid further reliance on Russian gas.

Russia’s natural gas already comprises about 30% of Europe’s supply, but political tension has caused EU energy heads to turn to the south, where Algeria’s national oil and gas company Sonatrach is becoming a major provider of continental hydrocarbons.

Italy is currently working on a pipeline to bring gas from Azerbaijan on a direct southern European route that would skirt Russia, and the European Commission is chipping in on that path due to its strategic importance.

And even though Russia’s state-owned giant Gazprom recently signed a $2.5 billion deal with Nigeria’s national natgas company, it’s natural gas coming directly from Russia that Europe is most eager to diversify away from.

Nigerian and other local officials along the planned Trans-Sahara route hope for funding and policy encouragement from Brussels to develop before work gets underway, but the new pipeline plan is already part of an increasing trend towards European natural gas supply diversification.

Sam Hopkins

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