African Ministers Talk Up Gas at Nigeria Summit

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Despite all the talk about decarbonization of the global energy system, African oil and gas producers are still prioritizing hydrocarbons as the cheapest and fastest way to tackle energy poverty in the continent. That was one of the key takeaways from the Nigerian International Petroleum Summit in Abuja on Monday. Energy poverty is overwhelming in Africa, where 600 million people still lack access to electricity and 900 million lack access to clean fuel for cooking (IOD May4'21). But producer nations' perspective is also colored by the economic and fiscal reality that oil and gas accounts for 70%-90% of some African countries' export earnings. They know that increased capital discipline and the shift toward low-carbon energy has already put tremendous pressure on international oil companies to stop investing in African oil and gas. As far as Opec is concerned, the energy transition has to be comprehensive and it has to be inclusive, Opec Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo, a Nigerian, told ministers attending the summit. "We are not climate deniers. We believe the world, and Africa in particular, need all sources of energy to meet current and future demand. We call on all our member countries to invest in renewables but to also continue to meet demand for hydrocarbons," Barkindo added. Definitions can also be confusing, said Nigeria's Minister of State for Petroleum Timipre Sylva. He noticed that gas is often described as a dirty fuel, while nuclear energy is described as clean, despite the potential hazards associated with it. "We must be allowed to develop our gas reserves ... as it is a cleaner fuel," said Sylva, repeating the gas producers' mantra that gas is a valuable "transition fuel" on the road to greater use of renewable energy. "We can see the oil and gas economy won't last forever, so we want the most value from oil oil and gas reserves now," he added. "We need to transition into resources like gas," the petroleum minister of gas-rich Equatorial Guinea, Gabriel Obiang Lima, concurred. He suggested that national oil companies (NOCs) need to pick up the slack, now that international oil companies are showing less of an appetite to invest in developing the continent's upstream resources. "We can't sit around and wait for a white knight. NOCs need to start taking charge of their reserves,” Lima said. Christina Katsouris, London

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