By Bassey Udo
Nigeria’s untapped natural gas reserves could help resolve the global energy crisis as a result of the current Russian war with Ukraine, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, has said.
With the escalation of the conflict between between Russia and Ukraine, which has since degenerated into a fullscale war, a major source of gas supply to the United States and Europe has been disrupted on the United States (US) Government to provide funding support for Nigeria to develop its natural gas resources to serve as alternative source of energy for Europe.
The European economy depends on about 40 percent supply of gas from Russia, while US Energy Information Administration (EIA) data show the country relied on Russia for about 8 percent of its energy imports, and 3 percent of crude oil needs in 2021.
The disruption of gas supplies from Russia to US and Europe in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict has worsened their energy crises, triggering a massive scramble for alternative sources of energy supply, which has already beginning to take its toll of the two leading world economies.
But Sylva told the US Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm, during a meeting on the side-lines of the ongoing Ceraweek event in Houston Texas on Wednesday that Nigeria’s abundant, but undeveloped gas resources could come to the rescue of the two economies from the global energy crisis.
He proposed the collaboration between the United States, Europe and Nigeria in the area of funding for gas infrastructure development.
This collaboration, he said, would be of immense benefits to Nigeria and the countries as well as the entire globe.
“It is in the interests of the global community that there is alternative supply of gas to Europe and the US. The challenge for Nigeria to transport its gas resources has been lack of infrastructure. We need funding to develop the required gas infrastructure from Nigeria. We believe the US government and private sector financial institutions can provide that funding, which would be of mutual benefit to our economies,” the Minister said.
Sylva told Granholm that Nigeria was blessed with abundant natural gas resources that could meet European and US demand for gas, pointing out that the problem has always been lack of access to funding for infrastructure development.
As part of efforts to boost gas supplies across the African continent, Sylva said Nigeria has embarked on the the construction of a 600 kilometers trans-regional gas pipeline , the Ajaokuta- Kaduna- Kano (AKK) system, designed to take gas from the country’s Niger Delta region in the South to industrial establishments in the northern part of the country.
The pipeline is also part of the ttans-Saharan gas transport system initiated to convey Nigeria’s gas to Algeria and other parts of north Africa enroute Europe.
He called on the US government to provide the needed funding for gas infrastructure development for the exploitation of Nigeria’s huge natural gas reserves.
Nigeria is reputed to have over 220 trillion standard cubic feet of proven gas reserves, apart from over 603 trilllion standard feet of unproven gas reserves.
“We have access to gas reserves in various onshore and offshore locations, but access to funding to develop them has been the major problem,” Sylva lamented.
“Our desire is to be able to take gas from Nigeria through the gas pipeline system currently under construction, via Algeria to Europe. We have already kickstarted the AKK gas pipeline project. If we have the required funding, we can complete that project in two years,” he said.
“We believe if we target the exploitation of Nigeria’s natural gas, we will be able to get up to 600 trillion cubic feet. We need to have the needed funding to develop our gas and the US can provide us this funding,” he added.
The crisis between Russia and Ukraine, he noted, was a wake-up call to the world to develop an alternative sources of gas supply to Europe, stressing that in situations like this, it was always good to have alternative.
On the issue of global energy transition, Sylva said for it to be meaningful, the peculiar problems of Africa must be factored into the entire energy transition discussion.
The minister, known to be a strong advocate of an African solution to the energy transition, said the continent deserves to be given some special considerations.
“I am excited that the world has started listening to us. I was particularly happy that John Kerry echoed our position when he spoke at a panel session on the issue.
“Inasmuch as we want to be part of the new global economy, we cannot afford to move at the same pace. We still have people without clean cooking fuels and power supply. So we want to achieve our energy base load through a multi-prong approach. The reality check is that we cannot move at the same pace. There is a huge gap between our expectations,” he said.
He called on the US government to support Nigeria and other African countries in the areas of funding and technology to fast-track the quest for energy transition.
Sylva however cautioned that such funding and technological supports must be made accessible to interested countries.
“We have to workout a structured way to access the funding. We must create that understanding to make the loans accessible. The issue of sovereign guarantee must be removed, so that only interested countries can easily access the funding,” the minister said.
Citing the case of the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), Sylva said since the programme came into force so many years ago, no African country has been able to successfully key into the project for maximum benefits due to difficulty in accessing AGOA.
Granholm expressed the readiness of the US government to collaborate with Nigeria to develop her renewable energy sector, noting that her government was not opposed to the development of gas or other sources of energy.
The Minister called for a coordinated strategy to pin down specific areas of focus where funding and other supports would be required.
“Investors are interested in funding renewable energy projects in Nigeria. But they are interested in knowing possible areas of focus. We have to work out a structured way to access the funding, ” Granholm said.
Earlier, Sylva met with the US Assistant Secretary of State, Harry Karman, where he expressed Nigeria’s willingness to develop the different sources of renewable energy, such as wind, solar and hydrogen.
Also, he spoke about the need to streamline targeted financing for alternative energy solutions, adding that there must be a framework of accessing the funding.
Karman assured Sylva of the US government’s readiness to support Nigeria in finding sustainable energy sources for the millions of Nigerians srill without access to power.