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TSGP: A tall dream becomes a reality?

NNPC decries upsurge in vandalism of crude, gas pipelines


During my School of Basic Studies (SBS) and undergraduate days at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Nigeria in our Geography studies we read about this grandiose and majestic Trans African Super Highway that will be constructed from the southernmost tip of this Great African Continent at a place called ‘Cape of Good Hope’ in South Africa to the northernmost tip of the Continent somewhere in Cairo/Alexandria axis in Egypt. The dreamed Super African Highway became simply known as ‘Cape to Cairo African Super Highway’. We were always elated and excited about it. What a Dream! This was almost thirty years ago!! The 100, 000-km Trans-Africa Super Highway, was envisaged to promote and accelerate the growth of the integration of the continent’s road networks that will provide a critical platform for countries to compete in the global arena and promote local, national and regional economic growth. It was conceived to be made up of nine highways, passing through 41 cities in sub-Saharan Africa and connecting over 500-million African people. The Highway was estimated to cost US$20-billion for initial costs, each year $1-billion for maintenance, and $12-billion for administration, condition monitoring, and programmes to compensate abutting settlements for lost revenue as a result of barricades.
However, the nagging problem then was not financing but the political issue of how to deal with the then White minority and Apartheid regimes in South Africa and Rhodesia respectively. It was almost at the same time; again, we started hearing about another African tall dream; also known as the ‘Trans-Saharan African Gas Pipeline’ (TSGP). We were then told that this gigantic superstructure will also follow closely alongside the ‘Cape to Cairo African Super Highway’.

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The then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) had placed mandatory comprehensive sanctions against the illegal regimes in both South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Hence, in principle and diplomatically, no independent African member country of the OAU was allowed to relate in anyway or manner with the Governments of those two pariah nations. Therefore, the tall dream of ‘Cape to Cairo African Super Highway’ never became a reality to date; even after the White minority and Apartheid regimes in both South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) have since been dismantled and the two countries liberated from the shackles of racial discrimination and white minority domination.
The closest things that resembled the realization of that dream are the two stretches of federal highways that start from Badagary-Lagos to Sokoto and the Sokoto-Ilela highway that link Nigeria to the Republic of Niger. Probably, this link can still be considered a milestone in the realization of the once dreamed ‘Cape to Cairo African Super Highway’; at least from the Nigerian side.
However, on Friday July 3, 2009, history was made when Algeria, Niger and Nigeria signed a tripartite inter-governmental agreement (IGA)/Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to give official stamp to the process of constructing a proposed US$13 billion international gas pipeline known as the Trans Saharan Gas Pipeline (TSGP) project. The TSGP project is about 4,200 Kilometres (2,485 miles) long route; with a 30 year history.
It will traverse the world’s third largest desert, through which processed natural gas will be shipped via underground pipelines system to Europe from Nigeria’s oil and gas rich Niger delta region (Brass) via Niger Republic and Algeria’s port cities of Beni Saf or El Kala. These two countries serve as the transit and partner countries through which the pipeline will then cross the Mediterranean Sea to Spain, with possibly a branch going to Italy.
The TSGP is envisaged to transport about 30 billion cubic metre per annum of Nigerian gas to Europe; with an envisaged first delivery of gas scheduled date set for 2015; ensuring Europe’s long-term security of supply. Nigeria is estimated to have proven gas reserves of over 184 trillion cubic feet (or 5 trillion cubic meters – equal to roughly 10 years of consumption of the European Union -EU), making it the seventh largest producer in the world.
However, to date, Nigeria has never explored for gas. It only utilises a fraction of its associated gas [i.e. gas that is encountered in the process of oil exploration and development], whose quality is very high -particularly rich in liquids and low in sulphur. A large chunk of Nigeria’s associated gas is wasted through daily flaring by oil producing companies. Nigeria is estimated to be losing over US$2.5billion (£1.53billion) annually to gas flaring and is ranked as the second after Russia in gas flaring; with attendant greenhouse gasses (GHG) emissions and climate change implications.
The IGA/MoU for the TSGP was signed by Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Rilwanu Lukman, Algerian Minister of Mines and Energy, Chakib Khelil, and Mohammed Abdullahi, Niger’s Minister of Mines and Energy in Abuja. According to Dr. Muhammad Sanusi Barkindo, the head of Nigeria’s state-owned oil company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), with the signing of the IGA/MoU for the project by the three governments, the three national oil companies of these three countries have received the official endorsement and directive to begin in earnest the definitional phase of the proposed project.
It would also be recalled that just on June 25, 2005 President Yar’Adua’s administration yet achieved another milestone when it signed a bilateral IGA/MoU with the Russian Federation for the development of Nigeria’s abundant gas reserves and investment in Nigeria’s other energy resource endowments including oil refineries, power stations and nuclear energy, among others; with an initial outlay of US$2.5 billion (£1.53billion). The agreement was signed during a four-day African tour by the Russian Federation President, Mr. Dmitry Medvedev.
The agreement also gave birth to a new international energy business entity named ‘Nigaz Energy Limited’; a 50-50 parity joint venture (JV) firm formed between Nigeria’s state-owned NNPC and Russian Gas giant Gazprom is envisaged to play a prominent role in developing the proposed trans-Saharan African gas pipeline (TSGP). For example, according to industry sources, Nigaz Energy Limited/Gazprom will invest in building a 360-kilometre gas pipeline running from south of Nigeria to the north of the country at a cost estimated between US$400 million and US$500 million.