Russia's invasion of Ukraine has Europe shunning Russian energy sources, and African oil and gas exporters like Nigeria are hoping to step in. But Nigeria's petroleum minister said this week that shareholders in Nigeria’s largest natural gas company were blocking efforts to boost the country’s exports to European customers.
Petroleum Minister Timipre Marlin Sylva said this week that partners in Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Ltd. (NLNG), including European companies Shell, Total and Eni, turned down a proposal to allow more companies to provide natural gas for export.
He said the partners wanted the gas supplied to them at less than regular rates so they could make more profit when they sold it abroad.
The minister said that decision was getting in the way of Nigeria's ability to boost gas exports and "help ease the European Union's gas crisis.”
Officials of NLNG were not available for comment Friday.
Nigerian authorities are trying to earn some extra cash from gas exports as European countries look for alternatives to Russian energy sources.
Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil producer and also has the continent's largest reserves for gas, much of it unutilized.
Call for more pressure
Energy expert Odion Omanfoman said the government must apply more pressure on its NLNG partners to achieve its goals.
"The government needs to force the hands of Shell, Total, Agip and all the other people that have their pipelines to open up their pipelines without unnecessary sanctions to the domestic gas producers," he said. "It's now in government hands, particularly the upstream and midstream regulatory authorities."
More than 80 percent of the world's natural gas exports comes from just 10 countries, including Nigeria, with Russia exporting the largest volume.
NLNG produces about 22 million tons of gas every year and is trying to top that output by an additional 8 million tons.
Energy expert Kolawole Banwo said that while the government's ambition is welcomed, Russia's boots are far too big for Nigeria to fill just yet.
"It's going to be far from suddenly occupying the space that Russia occupied in Europe — that's a long way to go," Banwo said. "Again, because of the infrastructure for transportation, we're not producing enough to meet that market in the first place. And we don't have infrastructure also in place to transport. Even if we produce all that Russia needs, we can't transport all that they need within the time that they need it into Europe at the moment.”
In 2021, before Russia invaded Ukraine, Nigeria was the fourth-largest source of liquefied natural gas to the European Union and United Kingdom, after the U.S., Qatar and Russia.