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Opinion: Africa’s natural gas sector is building momentum in 2024

Pubdate:2024-01-04 10:16 Source:World Oil Staff Click:

(WO) – The recently signed liquefied natural gas (LNG) development project in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province is a promising step on the long road to Africa’s just energy transition.

The project, being jointly developed by Kinetic Energy of Australia and the Industrial Corporation of South Africa (IDC), a national development finance institution, will capitalize on Kinetic Energy’s recent 3.1 billion cubic feet natural gas discovery in Amersfoort, Mpumalanga. The project is expected to produce 50 megawatts (MW) of equivalent energy and eventually expand to 500 MW.

The project, which Kinetic Energy describes as South Africa’s largest onshore LNG project, exemplifies natural gas’ potential to grow the country’s economy and meet domestic energy needs.

This all comes about as South Africa works to expand its oil and gas operations in order to curb its reliance on coal and help pave the way to eventual decarbonization.

South Africa is not alone, either. As the African Energy Chamber (AEC) covers in our recently released “The State of African Energy 2024 Outlook Report,” natural gas production is on the rise both globally and in Africa. Even more promising, our report notes that “upstream operators are now revising their strategies and aligning their future investments more in line with energy transition, and natural gas is being looked at as transition fuel.”

The African Energy Chamber will make support the Invest in African Energy Conference in Paris this year organise by Energy Capital and Power. African Energy Week will definitely be the home of Natural Gas investment in Africa.

Gas: A logical transition fuel. I find it heartening that, despite calls by environmental organizations and wealthy countries to cease investment in African oil and gas projects, many of the companies actually operating in Africa appear to recognize natural gas’ value as a transition fuel. Too long has the solution to the climate crisis been oversimplified: Decarbonization is not a goal that can be reached overnight nor without first building up the infrastructure required to support development of renewables.

Such a task is relatively simple for Western countries, which have spent centuries building their economies and infrastructure off the backs of fossil fuels. The same cannot be said for African states, which have long lacked these same development opportunities and must now play catch-up at an accelerated pace.

Even worse, we are told to play this game of catch-up with our hands tied: to leave our natural resources in the ground while the developed nations of the world continue to exploit their natural non-renewable wealth. We are expected to jump straight to building wind farms, solar farms, and hydroelectric dams while hundreds of millions of Africans are still living without access to electricity.

Where will the capital for such a miraculous development come from?

Who will build the foundational infrastructure needed to support it?

Developed nations are quick to promise, “We will!” but reticent to follow through on their promises. What’s more, their foreign “aid” has frequently focused more on alleviating the symptoms of Africa’s economic and energy poverty rather than resolving the source.

With all this in mind, it is clear to me who must provide the lion’s share of capital and build the infrastructure: Africans ourselves. And we cannot do that without tapping our own natural resources, natural gas being the most vital among them. Its properties that burn cleaner than oil and coal, its abundance, its ease of storage and transport, and its applications in manufacturing and synthesis make natural gas the best option for Africans to establish energy security and achieve decarbonization.