In an exclusive interview with Energy Capital, & Power, Khroumbaly Lehbib, advisor in charge of upstream hydrocarbons at the Ministry of Petroleum, Mines, and Energy of Mauritania, delved into gas transportation challenges, emphasized the importance of collaboration to enhance local content, and reaffirmed the goal of Mauritania to develop green hydrogen production.
Is the Mauritanian government planning to develop a transportation system in the country, considering that gas production from Greater Tortue Ahmeyim (GTA) is set to begin this year?
We are considering building a pipeline transport infrastructure to transfer gas from the GTA once production begins. Our goal is to expand the pipeline to the country’s northern area, notably Nouadhibou City, where major mining activity occurs. We have hired a consulting company to undertake a detailed feasibility study to assess the viability of the transportation system. One key challenge we expect is the 600-kilometer distance between the gas fields in the southern area and the mining industry in the northern section of the nation. If the volume is significant, the distance will be less of a problem. Another important factor to consider is gas demand. We must guarantee that there is enough demand to justify the economic case for such a system and warrant embarking on such a project.
How does the development of the natural gas pipeline align with the country’s broader strategy, such as the Gas Master Plan, and what benefits will it bring to the economy and society at large?
Transporting gas to the locations where power stations will be built is crucial for the seamless implementation of Mauritania’s energy plan. However, the gas-producing locations are currently far from densely populated areas and industrial centers, highlighting the importance of effective gas transportation to connect these elements. By aligning with the energy strategy, integrating the gas sector into the economy, and fostering industrialization, Mauritania can create an environment conducive to economic growth. This emphasizes the need to transport gas from regions with low population density and industrial concentration to areas where these activities can thrive.
Could you provide an overview of Mauritania’s national local content policy for the extractive sector and how it aims to enhance the participation of local companies?
Local content creation and development are priorities for Mauritania’s extractive industry. The focus is on strengthening access to the procurement system, enhancing the competencies of local enterprises and the workforce, and promoting transparency. A new law is being developed to guide local Mauritanian enterprises and increase transparency related to the procurement process of multinational oil and mining corporations. The strategy includes supporting businesses in improving qualifications, participating in tenders, understanding requirements, and accessing financing for fulfilling contractual obligations. Regarding the local workforce, the mining sector has already demonstrated the potential of Mauritanians to excel in high-standard environments. We aim to equip individuals with versatile skills that can be applied across different industries to expand their employment opportunities. We are actively working to improve language skills and address skill gaps, enhancing job prospects in the mining and energy sectors.
How do you envision the role of foreign investors in supporting the growth and diversification of Mauritania’s economy?
Foreign investors are vital for supporting Mauritania’s economic growth and diversification, but demonstrating commitment to the community is crucial. We have witnessed positive engagement from partners regarding local content, employment opportunities, training initiatives, and social investments. Transparency and openness to the local market are equally essential. Our partners should provide opportunities for local participation and training programs for individuals to work with their companies. We are pleased to see many partners, such as bp and Kinross, already taking such initiatives.
How is Mauritania addressing renewable energy and its potential for the country’s development and climate change?
Renewable energy is a priority for Mauritania, both in terms of our country’s potential and our commitment to tackling climate change. We believe that the mining sector can contribute to the energy transition by producing low-carbon steel through the combination of iron production and hydrogen. We are actively working with partners such as bp, ArcelorMittal, and SNIM to explore the possibility of Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) production. We are exploring financing options for green hydrogen projects, with a focus on private sector involvement. The government is working to strengthen relationships with Development Finance Institutions and partners to reduce capital costs. The “Nouakchott message,” promoting African-produced green hydrogen, has gained positive attention from organizations like the World Bank and partners like Germany.