Nigeria, Morocco sign up five more countries to gas pipeline plan
Nigeria and Morocco have signed a memorandum of understanding with five West African nations on developing a gas pipeline connecting them, Nigeria's state-owned NNPC reported on December 7.
The agreement was signed by NNPC, Nigeria's Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines (ONHYM), Morocco, Ghana, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone. The proposed Nigeria-Morocco pipeline will cross 12 countries in total, stretching for 56,000 km and costing an estimated $25bn to develop. Besides supplying west Africa, the pipeline could also pump Nigerian gas to Europe via existing Mediterranean infrastructure, and spurs could be constructed to Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali.
Africa would benefit "immensely" from the project, NNPC CEO Mallam Mele Kyari said in a statement, by energising countries along its route.
"Other benefits include the creation of wealth and improvement in the standard of living of our citizenry, increased cooperation between our countries while mitigating against desertification and other benefits to be derived from reduction in carbon emission," the company head said.
NNPC and ONHYM have also signed MoUs on the project with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Petrosen and Societe Mauritanienne des Hydrocarbures (SMHPM).
While Nigerian authorities have stressed its value, the pipeline faces significant hurdles. Nigeria and Morocco may not be able to count on European support for the project, as Brussels favours the more flexible delivery of LNG. EU authorities are more reluctant to back large-scale pipelines, believing they will lock in gas supply for too long a period, running counter to the bloc's ambition to phase out fossil fuels on the road to net-zero emissions.
The pipeline would also run through disputed waters off the coast of Western Sahara.
Nevertheless, NNPC's Kyari said in October that it planned to take a final investment decision on the pipeline in 2023. Nigeria appears to have prioritised the pipeline to Morocco over a separate proposal to run a pipeline from Nigeria to Algeria. Though half the length, this Trans-Saharan project would pose a greater geopolitical problem given tensions between Algeria and Morocco. And there would be an added security risk, given the pipeline would run through north Nigeria and Niger – areas that are rife with terrorist groups and bandits.
As Verisk Maplecroft noted in a recent article written for NGW, there is a remote prospect of either project being realised before 2030.