Ukraine – Russia: Algeria ready to provide more gas to Europe

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Monday, 28 February 2022 10:34, updated on Tuesday, 8 March 2022 15:50

A view of the headquarters of the state energy company Sonatrach in Algiers
A view of the headquarters of the state energy company Sonatrach in Algiers, Algeria 25 November 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina

Sonatrach, the Algerian state-owned oil and gas giant, is ready to supply more gas to the European Union, should Russian exports fall with the Ukrainian crisis, by transporting it via the Transmed pipeline linking Algeria to Italy.

Sonatrach is “a reliable supplier of gas for the European market and is willing to support its long-term partners in case of difficult situations,” said its CEO, Toufik Hakkar, to the daily Liberté, in an interview published on Sunday 27 February.

Additional supplies of natural gas or liquefied natural gas (LNG) remain, however, dependent on the “availability of surplus volumes after meeting the demand of the domestic market” and “contractual commitments” to foreign partners, he added.

Transmed gas pipeline

Sonatrach “has unused capacity on the Transmed pipeline”, which could be used to “increase supplies to the European market,” according to Toufik Hakkar. This pipeline can transport up to 32 billion cubic meters per year, four times more than the Medgaz pipeline that supplies Spain.

Europe is the “natural market of choice” for Algeria, which currently contributes 11% of its gas imports, said Toufik Hakkar.

“Algeria exports a maximum of 22 billion cubic meters via the Transmed pipeline,” which leaves a capacity of 10 billion cubic meters to export, said the former Algerian Minister of Energy Abdelmajid Attar, also former CEO of Sonatrach. The gas could also be liquefied and sent through LNG tankers, knowing that “the liquefaction units that exist in Algeria operate at 50/60% of their capacity,” according to Abdelmajid Attar.

Shale gas

However, Algeria can not alone “compensate for the decline in Russian gas supply,” adds the expert, estimating that it could “provide the EU two or three billion cubic meters more” at most. But in “the medium term, in four or five years, Algeria will be able to send larger quantities”, says Attar, deeming it necessary first to “develop new reserves consisting mainly of non-conventional gas” (shale gas).

Algeria plans to invest $ 40bn between 2022 and 2026 in the exploration, production and refining of oil as well as in the exploration and extraction of gas. An extraordinary meeting of the Council of European Ministers in charge of Energy is to be held on Monday 28 February in Brussels, while several European countries depend heavily on Russia for their gas imports.

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