Mauritania has signed a gas exploration and production sharing agreement with British oil company British Petroleum (BP) and US-based Kosmos Energy in a field located in Mauritanian Atlantic waters. According to EFE news agency, Mauritania will start producing liquefied natural gas for the first time from November or December 2023, according to Mauritania's Oil Minister Abdeslam uld Mohamed Saleh.
The minister said the first production will take place at the Grand Tortue Ahmeyim (GTA) gas plant in the Gulf of Guinea, located offshore on the Mauritania-Senegal border. The field, considered one of the largest in the Gulf of Guinea, could produce up to 10 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas per year at a total cost of $4.6 billion. According to the Mauritanian minister, GTA is one of the deepest projects in the world and requires the use of new technologies that will be used for the first time
Mauritania's Ministry of Petroleum, Energy and Mines said in a statement that the field, named "BirAllah", contains reserves of almost 2.26 billion cubic metres of gas, adding that the Mauritanian state's share of revenues will be 29%. It explained that production from the field in a timely manner provides sufficient gas resources to achieve gas liquefaction options for Mauritania to become a future gas producer. Engineering studies for the project are expected to be completed within 30 months, after which a final investment decision will be made in the first half of 2025.
The European Union's thirst for gas, which is already affecting countries such as Bangladesh, could find in Mauritania a great ally with whom it could reach different agreements. Although natural gas reserves in Africa are large and North African countries such as Algeria already have pipelines connected to Europe, lack of infrastructure and security concerns have long prevented producers in other parts of the continent from increasing their exports.
The field off the coasts of Senegal and Mauritania is initially expected to hold about 425 billion cubic metres of gas, five times as much as all that heavily gas-dependent Germany used in 2019. But production would not start until early next year.
That won't help solve the energy crisis triggered in Europe by Russia's war in Ukraine. Still, Gordon Birrell, an executive at BP, a co-promoter of the project, said the work "couldn't be more timely" as Europe tries to reduce its dependence on Russian natural gas for factories, power stations and domestic heating.
In a further step that underpins its plans to make this vital area its third economic pillar after minerals and marine wealth to boost its financial resources, Mauritania has accelerated the development of the country's industrial fabric. The government has long focused its attention on gas resources, so its future returns will help it consolidate economic reforms that break with the past in the treatment of investment and production with the aim of moving from self-sufficiency to the export stage. Mauritanians hope that the country's wealth from gas will help improve their living conditions and provide job opportunities for young people, as unemployment stands at 30% in the country of some 4 million people.
Industry experts believe that, with the start of the exploitation of the discovered gas reserves, Mauritania will become the third largest gas exporter on the African continent after Nigeria and Algeria.