Regional Focus: Africa’s floating LNG sector looks to regain footing post-pandemic

S. Oirere, Contributing Writer

The drive to harness natural gas reserves in Africa is supporting low-emissions energy generation and effective monetization of marginal and small gas fields. This has created space for investment in floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) and floating storage and regasification (FSRU), although the sector is still in its infancy.

COVID-19 slows gas developments. The pace of natural gas exploration, production and processing in sub-Saharan Africa was gaining momentum prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which slowed or disrupted project progress in many areas from early 2020. Due to national lockdowns and restricted international travel, some gas production and processing operations in Africa were disrupted or delayed as the project owners and partners mapped out how to maneuver the pandemic disruption. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Africa’s total proven natural gas reserves had surpassed 509.6 Tft3, equivalent to 7.3% of the world’s total proven reserves, according to International Gas Union (IGU) estimates.

As gas production and processing projects pick up again post-pandemic, interest in the construction and operation of FLNG facilities is expected to grow in Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Senegal, Mozambique and Equatorial Guinea. The countries’ respective national oil companies are seeking partnership with mid-capacity independents to launch FLNG systems to gain footing in global LNG markets and meet local demand for gas supply.

Due to financial constraints and difficulties in mobilizing adequate investment resources for increased offshore natural gas production, greater focus has been placed on assets in shallow waters or onshore, but with capacity to connect them to nearshore liquefaction facilities. The following sections showcase projects that are in operation or under development.

Nigeria licenses first FLNG. The emerging FLNG market in Africa is largely concentrated in countries that have a mix of ultra-deep and deepwater, midwater and shallow-water natural gas blocks, with Nigeria becoming the latest to license its first FLNG project.

The country’s State Department of Petroleum Resources recently awarded a license to establish an FLNG production facility to indigenous firm UTM Offshore Ltd. The facility will have a capacity of 1.2 MMtpy and process 176 MMsft3d of natural gas and condensate from the mature Yoho field. UTM Offshore has not specified if it will order a new FLNG unit for the project or utilize an existing vessel. The project will contribute to the Nigerian government’s initiative to severely curb gas flaring in the country.

Tema LNG ramps up. In neighboring Ghana, a new FSRU vessel has been developed at the Port of Tema. Owned by Access LNG, the floating regasification terminal was developed by a JV of London-based Helios Investment Partners, a leading Africa-focused private investment firm; and German LNG infrastructure developer Gasfin Development SA.

Unlike FLNG projects that target the development of marginal and small natural gas reserves, Ghana’s floating LNG project will be used to support electricity generation.

The 95-m FSRU was built at China’s CSSC Jiangnan Shipyard and fitted with two IMO type C tanks for a storage capacity of 28,000 m3. It was delivered to Ghana in January 2021. The FSRU’s annual regasification capacity is approximately 1.7 MMtpy of LNG, with a lifespan of 20 yr. The FSRU and the floating storage unit (FSU) have a combined storage capacity of 145,000 m3–160,000 m3.

The Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF) announced a $31-MM boost for the project after signing an agreement with Access LNG. The investment will contribute to reducing carbon emissions from the project, contributing to Ghana’s long-term energy needs, and strengthening its economic stability and economic development efforts.

According to Ogbemi Ofuya, a Partner at Helios Investment Partners, the Tema project “…positions the energy sector in Ghana for both growth and environmental sustainability so that when the world recovers from COVID-19, Ghana will have the energy infrastructure needed to help it compete.”

Hilli Episeyo develops stranded reserves. An FLNG nearshore the coast of Cameroon has been developed under a partnership of Golar LNG, Perenco and Cameroon’s national oil company, Société Nationale des Hydrocarbures (SNH). The FLNG will offer a low-cost, fast-tracked solution for stranded gas projects that are too small to justify a large-scale LNG development.

Perenco operates the Sanaga South and Ebome gas fields, which hold an estimated 500 Bft3 of gas offshore Cameroon. In 2016, Perenco and SNH signed a 10-yr deal with Golar LNG to develop Sanaga South’s remaining LPG reserves for the Cameroonian market and LNG for international consumers. Subsequently, Perenco and SNH made the decision to fully develop the country’s LNG market with the support of the FLNG Hilli Episeyo, the world’s first converted LNG FPSO, now owned and operated by Golar Hilli Corp., a subsidiary of Golar LNG Ltd.

The conversion of a 1975 Moss LNG carrier with a storage capacity of 125,000 m3 to an FLNG facility was carried out at the Keppel Shipyard in Singapore under a $735-MM contract. Keppel chose Black & Veatch as the topside subcontractor to supply the liquefaction technology. Gazprom subsidiary Gazprom Marketing & Trading Singapore Pte Ltd. (GM&TS) will purchase all of the LNG produced by the Hilli Episeyo for export.

Tortue FLNG eyes startup next year. A similar floating gas system is being developed for Senegal and Mauritania. The Greater Tortue Ahmeyim project (Fig. 1) is designed to produce gas from a deepwater/midwater FPSO to an FLNG vessel at a nearshore hub on the maritime border of the two countries.

Regional Focus Fig 1

FIG. 1. The Greater Tortue Ahmeyim project, led by BP, Kosmos Energy, Petrosen and SMHPM, will produce 2.5 MMtpy of LNG at a nearshore hub on the maritime border of Senegal and Mauritania. Photo: BP.

BP, Kosmos Energy, Senegalese national oil company Petrosen and Mauritanian national oil company SMHPM are collectively developing the Greater Tortue Ahmeyim project. The FLNG’s designed capacity is 2.5 MMtpy, with total recoverable gas in the field estimated to be around 15 Tft3.

Outlook for African FLNG. Other major projects that have boosted Africa’s FLNG market at different levels of implementation include the $8-B Coral South FLNG project in Mozambique. The project is listed as the world’s first ultra-deepwater FLNG facility, with a capacity to liquefy more than 3.3 MMtpy of natural gas.

Also, in Equatorial Guinea, UK-based Ophir Energy and OneLNG, a JV of Golar LNG and Schlumberger, are attempting to revive a floating LNG terminal with an estimated annual capacity of 2.5 MMtpy.

Although Africa’s FLNG market is still under development, optimism about its future growth is abundant. Oil and gas major Shell expects global LNG demand to double to 700 MMtpy by 2040 as gas plays a significant role in shaping a lower-carbon energy system. Shell’s Integrated Gas and New Energies Director, Maarten Wetselaar, presented the following outlook: “While we see weak market conditions today due to record new supply coming in, two successive mild winters and the Coronavirus situation, we expect equilibrium to return, driven by a combination of continued demand growth and reduction in new supply coming onstream until the mid-2020s.” GP


Author Pic Oiere

SHEM OIRERE is a freelance journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya. He has spent more than 10 yr covering various sectors of Africa’s economy, and has had numerous articles published in several international publications and websites. He earned a higher degree in journalism from the London School of Journalism, and is also a member of the Association of Business Executives (ABE).


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