France is already importing close to 10 percent of its gas from Nigeria, but is willing to import more, as the country, like others in Europe, seeks alternative energy providers.
This was disclosed to BusinessDay in an interview with Emmanuelle Blatmann, ambassador of France to Nigeria, who described the changing energy market in Europe as a major opportunity for Nigeria to benefit from what’s happening on the continent, due to the war between Ukraine and Russia.
“We will be more than happy to import more gas from Nigeria, and so are other countries that are even more dependent on Russian gas,” said Blatmann, also noting, “I’m not saying it is good to make profit out of war elsewhere but that’s how business is and it is a pity.”
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The French ambassador, in her first major interview, which will be published by BusinessDay next week, said all EU member states are looking to diversify their supplies of gas, and for Nigeria that has some of the biggest reserves of gas, it should be a huge opportunity to increase its production first, then exports.
She says, however, that as gas production is linked to oil production in Nigeria, which has been declining because of crude oil theft, the ability to produce more gas is also declining.
“That’s a major issue because unfortunately, right now, Nigeria is not even meeting the contracts that they have, whereas it should be a major opportunity to increase production and to get a huge benefit out of it,” she says.
Yet, France, like its European neighbours, is desirous of having other providers of gas and this is where Nigeria is seen as able to play a part. “It is a pity that this opportunity has not been seized and it is a pity that it’s lost because of illegal activities. Because companies can’t invest or produce more when 90 percent of what they’re putting in the pipeline is stolen,” says Blatmann.
Her comments buttress those from an earlier interview BusinessDay had with Bernd Von Münchow-Pohl, head of Mission at the German Consulate General in Lagos. Munchow-Pohl had also told BusinessDay there was a renewed interest across Europe, and especially in Germany for alternative sources of gas and Nigeria has the potential for that.
“Because of the war in Ukraine and our dependence on Russia in that area, we need to diversify really quickly,” he said. “This is predominantly the dependence on Russian oil and gas but this is something that doesn’t happen if we look at it from a 10-15 years perspective.”
For Nigeria, the German consul general had recommended reviving moribund LNG projects, so as to boost the capacity for more gas shipments through the ocean, as against pipeline projects that may not crystallise faster or necessarily more efficiently in the context of moving gas from Nigeria to Europe.
“We would be very interested as a customer. It doesn’t matter who we are dealing with, because now we don’t have to be dependent on one source. We have just had to learn the hard way and it’s not just in Germany, but for other European countries,” he said.