Energy, Capital & Power (www.EnergyCapitalPower.com) spoke with Rogers Beall, CEO of Fortesa International Senegal (https://bit.ly/39CCDtJ) about the role of gas power in driving African economic development, the role of European markets, pricing and future investment.
Please tell us what you think about the role gas power will play in the global energy transition.
Gas is essential to the transition as a fast-track mechanism and stepping stone to decarbonisation, ensuring a rapidly developing energy supply that builds African economies. At a basic level, it replaces heavy fuel oils, diesel fuel and coal as a smaller footprint alternative within much of the existing generation infrastructure, equipment and facilities. But it also allows African economies to compete with industrialized powers in the global marketplace, driving the continent’s social and economic progress.
Of course, natural gas is a general term and we normally differentiate it into two types. Most of the countries that currently use gas in Africa use associated gas, that is, gas that comes along with oil production. And for years, we burned it as a byproduct, literally burning enough gas to fuel Africa’s energy demand. Fortunately, this is being phased out and the monetization of globally important gas has affected Africa. As a fuel source, its carbon footprint is about 30% less than that of crude oil. And with the European Union recently reversing years of blocking gas development, now labeling it a green fuel source, international markets have been opened up, which the MSGBC nations are ideally positioned to supply.
Why are so many African countries still burning?
Historically, cheap gas extraction in most of Africa has not been off to a good start. Gas wells cost more than oil wells with higher hazards because the gas is volatile at the surface and blowouts can be deadly. But above all it was a question of money. Oil prices were and are high at around $108 a barrel, while many of the oil producing countries regulated their own gas prices set at next to nothing. Nigeria, for example, had the price of gasoline at 10 cents in MMBTU, then 20 years ago they raised it to 20 cents. Yesterday, natural gas reached $9 in the US. Governments kept gas prices low in the mistaken belief that it would mean cheap energy for their citizens, but in reality it meant that no one was investing in using the resource, so what the infrastructure was never built. Senegal has the correct idea that it is legally a free market for gas and many other nations are catching up, with LNG on the rise, new European market opportunities and world-class gas mega-developments now springing up in the MSGBC (https://bit.ly/3yKZYnA).
How do you feel about the energy transition?
I am 100% in favor of the energy transition and selling excess gas to Europe. Here in Dakar, the smoke from the coal chimney in the Bargny settlement spreads through the city and the pollution can be seen. Gas is an essential, cleaner and greener fuel source until we have effective renewable energy for Africa’s 1.1 billion people.
Most importantly, people need cost-effective energy, and domestic gas delivers. The cost per unit of energy production for diesel as a power source is nearly double that of gas, yet much of Senegal’s energy production relies on this heavy fuel at $14 in MMBTU. Also, of the equivalent of $9 you could spend on gasoline, half of that goes directly back into the local economy as taxes and to the people who develop the resource instead of being sent back to the country that exported the diesel fuels to Senegal.
During the MSGBC Oil, Gas & Power 2022 conference (https://bit.ly/3a4fuRb), discussions will focus on the role that oil and gas will continue to play in Africa’s energy future. What topics would you like to see addressed at West Africa’s premier energy event and how will Africa, Fortesa and Senegal fit into the dialogue?
For me, the key is that African energy must first develop Africa. Today the Shell station ran out of fuel because we have to import diesel and when the supply fails, the economy stops. They’re talking about using gasoline in the new combined cycle gas turbine power plant here, but gasoline is more expensive than diesel fuel. We need investments in cleaner fuels for development.
Senegal already has more than 30% renewable energy in its network. But data from Europe shows that renewables are less than 40% efficient on average, reducing the supply and profitability of these sources. Therefore, I would encourage dialogues on how to boost investment in domestic gas exploration. The oil industry stopped exploring years ago; there is not 10% of the exploration going on today that was going on globally a decade ago. There is only development and exploitation. So it is up to us working here in Africa to change the narrative from talking about exports first. We must take the initiative in our own defense to develop gas fuel without waiting for other risk-taking investors to come along while we still have many without access to electricity, while we all pay too much here for the electricity we have because of the costs petroleum fuels and resulting pollution, and African onshore prospecting can accomplish much of this for Africa and right now!