With the war raging between Russia and Ukraine, to say that the ” Old continent desperately looking for gas remains a truism that very few appreciate in Europe, which imports about 40% of its consumption from Russia. And to replace it becomes a real headache.
They are solutions, of course, but at what price, and who will provide them? They are liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporting countries, in particular the United States and Qatar, but for all that they have the capacity to supply this energy-intensive Europe to satiety. Another alternative, this one close since it is just a few fathoms away on the southern shore of the Mediterranean, Algeria. But no offense to the unpronounceable name of the president and his godfather the general in diapers, it will be difficult to compensate for a drop in supplies from Russia.
Strong domestic demand, falling investment… and the closure of the GME, Algerian gas exports are already struggling with Spain to be able to supply the European market with additional gas volumes. Gas is part of the sanctions, a deterrent to the Russian frenzy if it fails to take other weapons. Also the Russian supply to Europe will be interrupted and open its floodgates to China very fond of the matter and which already taker and good scavenger will revel in it. Russia makes 70% of its gas export earnings from its European customers at all good prices and at a lower price for the Middle Kingdom. But let’s come back to the alternative of Algerian gas which can in no way be of any help in the matter.
Recently when American diplomacy negotiated with the leaders of the Italian ENI associated with Sonatrach in order to obtain for European customers more gas from Algeria, an Algerian leader heated by the Algiers regime had this comment, “we should already ask our opinion and check if we want to do it”. Yet for little effort, the windfall is palpable in these times. There are a few market shares to nibble on by placing a few quantities of liquefied natural gas (LNG) at northern European terminals. This could do good where it hurts, the unpronounceable presidency is currently facing a serious meltdown in its foreign exchange reserves. But let it be said, it is not in its capacity to compete either with Qatar or the United States or sub-Saharan Africa.
That said, according to the doctrine that practical value is the only criterion of truth, pragmatism, neither Sonatrach, the public oil group or the Algiers regime, nor its foreign partners have these additional volumes to relieve Europe . Algerian natural gas exports have only declined over the past ten years.
They went from 40 billion cubic meters in 2020 to 34.5 billion in 2021, according to Sonatrach, whose turnover was only preserved by the rise in prices in the last quarter of the past financial year. Several causes prevent Algeria from maintaining its export target of 65 billion cubic meters per year, a level reached in 2008. First, the explosion in domestic gas consumption, growing by 7% per year. Then, the delay taken in the development of renewable energies and finally, the investment in research and exploration to renew reserves collapsed by prevarication.
And then there is this problem of conscience which weighs heavily and torments the minds of the Algiers regime. Can we make a kid behind the back to Russia? Replacing Russian gas in Europe at short notice with Algerian gas is not without the obvious risk of displeasing a historical partner of Algeria, main supplier of armament systems and unfailing diplomatic ally through the declared support of Moscow in Algiers facing the popular protest movement of Hirak.
Bizarrely also, Algeria, which claims to be the defender of the countries occupied or attacked by other foreign powers and committed to the causes of the peoples, observes an embarrassed, not to say deafening silence on the war in Ukraine. Unfortunately, this is the least of the tributes to be paid when one has sold one’s soul and body to the devil and which undoubtedly points to another of the irrational contradictions of Algerian diplomacy.
Moreover, if Algeria has the world’s fifth largest reserves of shale gas, it is not ready to launch exploitation.
Cheap ! the partners do not jostle at the gate, and the populations of the Sahara are oddly hostile there.
Cut GME but feed Europe
On Sunday, the Algerian oil and gas company, Sonatrach, said it was ready to supply more gas to Europe, in the event of a drop in Russian exports with the Ukrainian crisis, by routing it in particular via the Transmed gas pipeline linking the Algeria to Italy.
In a statement to the daily Liberté, the boss of Sonatrach, Toufik Hakkar, specified that the company, which is “a reliable supplier of gas for the European market, is ready to support its long-term partners in the event of difficult situations. “.
The Transmed pipeline, according to Hakkar, could be used to “increase supplies to the European market. It can transport up to 32 billion cubic meters per year, four times more than the Medgaz gas pipeline which supplies Spain”.
However, he pointed out, Algeria could not on its own “compensate for the drop in Russian gas supplies”, but it could “provide the EU with two or three billion more cubic meters” at the great maximum.