Algeria Plays Balancing Act As Europe Tries Cut Russian Gas

November 20, 2022 0 Comments

Algeria Plays Balancing Act As Europe Tries Cut Russian Gas – At least 38 dead in fires in 14 provinces of Algeria [Algeria Civil Defense/Anadolu Agency]

Forest fires in northern Algeria have killed 37 people and injured dozens, and fires are still raging in several parts of the North African country.

Algeria Plays Balancing Act As Europe Tries Cut Russian Gas

Algeria Plays Balancing Act As Europe Tries Cut Russian Gas

Fires ravaged 14 of Algeria’s provinces on Wednesday, where residents had previously complained of a lack of government support and preparedness during the annual and deadly fire season.

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Most of the victims were reported in El Tarf province, north of the Algeria-Tunisia border, where 34 people were found. The dead included a family of five who were found dead in their home and eight people in a public bus whose driver caught fire while traveling in a mountainous area.

“Most of the victims in El Tarf are holidaymakers who came to enjoy the paradise beaches and stunning scenery,” Prime Minister Aymen Benabderrahman said.

On Thursday he arrived in El-Tarf with some members of the government. The Prime Minister said that the state of Algeria will support the families of the victims and pay compensation for the repair work and the loss of livestock and bees. The region is also known for agriculture.

One person was killed in Souk Akhras, south of El Tarf. Two more people were killed in the Setif region, about 300 kilometers (185 miles) east of the North African capital Algiers.

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According to local media reports, people also fled in Souk Ahra province, bordering Tunisia, and 350 residents were evacuated.

The fire department reports that 1,700 firefighters worked on the fire on Thursday afternoon, of which 24 are still burning.

Earlier, Algeria’s Interior Minister Kamel Beljoud said that on Wednesday alone, 39 fires broke out in 14 regions, and that the fires have engulfed 3,200 hectares of forest and forests since the beginning of August.

Algeria Plays Balancing Act As Europe Tries Cut Russian Gas

The situation comes amid years of criticism that Algeria has not invested enough in firefighting technology, including specialized aircraft, prompting it to seek help from the international community.

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In 2021, Algeria asked the European Union, which was dealing with fires in Greece and Turkey, to send water bombs to fight the deadly fires that year.

Algeria has blamed “arsonists” linked to separatist groups and foreign governments for the fires, which have killed 90 people and destroyed more than 4.1 million hectares (10.1 million acres) of forest.

Writing for Al Jazeera last year, Qatar University political science professor Youssef Buandeli argued that a “climate of distrust and paranoia” surrounding the country’s fires further undermined government preparedness and contributed to the death toll.

Earlier this year, Algerian authorities canceled a contract with a Spanish company to supply seven water bombs following a diplomatic row between Algeria and Madrid, according to the defense website Mena.

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The dispute comes after Madrid overturned a decade of neutrality over Western Sahara and backed a plan to give the Moroccan-controlled region internal autonomy while relinquishing sovereignty.

Algeria has long supported the independence movement of Western Sahara. Madrid and Algeria slowly began to restore economic relations in July.

Since early August, 106 fires have broken out across the country, burning more than 2,500 hectares (6,178 acres) of forest. A diplomatic dispute

Algeria Plays Balancing Act As Europe Tries Cut Russian Gas

Algeria’s decision in early June to suspend trade with Spain in response to Madrid’s recognition of Morocco’s plan for autonomy in the disputed territory of Western Sahara was a serious blow to bilateral relations. And this decision reinforced the assumptions about the reliability of Algeria as a hydrocarbon exporter.

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This despite the fact that the crisis does not affect the export of Algerian gas to Spain. In fact, Algeria is aware that it is competing with its nearest European neighbor for gas supplies.

The crisis shows what a tough juggling act Algeria is trying to pull off. Algeria has drawn a red line on Western Sahara supporting full independence rather than Rabat’s modest proposals, and Algeria is trying to force the Europeans to cut off Russian gas.

To do this, Algeria must not only prove that it can still be a reliable gas supplier, but also increase production if they want to increase exports.

The practical reason for Algeria’s refusal to reduce gas exports to Spain is economic. Algerian gas exports to Spain reached 1.8 billion dollars and accounted for a quarter of the North African country’s total gas exports in 2020. Algeria will not be able to deliver all its supplies to Spain to alternative buyers through the existing pipeline infrastructure alone.

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Algeria has delivered 15.8 billion m³ of pipeline gas to Spain in 2021, as well as 2.4 billion m³ of LNG shipments. The Transmed pipeline, with a capacity of 30 billion m³ per year, does not offer an alternative route. It supplies all the gas to non-Spanish customers in Europe, as it already pumps 19.5 billion m³ per year in Tunisia and Italy.

In addition, the gas pipeline has already absorbed 8 billion m³/year of gas sent by the pipeline to Spain via Morocco – following Algeria’s decision in October not to renew the supply and transit agreement with Rabat. Spain’s pipeline delivery to Algeria was 3.8 billion cubic meters in the first four months of this year, compared with 5.65 billion cubic meters in the same period last year.

Even Algeria’s agreement to increase pipeline supplies to Italy will not fully address immediate cuts that would lead to a freeze on exports to Spain.

Algeria Plays Balancing Act As Europe Tries Cut Russian Gas

Italy’s Eni and Algeria’s NOC Sonatrach signed an agreement in April agreeing to “use the available transport capacity of the [Transmed] pipeline” to increase Italian imports. Even if we assume that Eni’s somewhat ambiguous statement translates into Algeria’s commitment to increase the supply to Italy by 9 billion m³ per year by 2023-2024, this can be achieved by using all current consumption at Transmed, which means an immediate acceleration. its expansion. But the additional 9 billion m³ sent to Italy and the almost 16 billion m³ sold via pipeline to Spain last year will still be in short supply.

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The lack of urgency, combined with the mixed track record of upgrading the Algerian pipeline, suggests that while Sonatrach and Eni may consider capacity expansion, it is unlikely to happen anytime soon. There is no guarantee that their ambitions will come true.

In response to another Russia-Ukraine gas dispute in January 2009, Transmed capacity increase in the late 2000s delivered relatively quickly, but missed the end goals and reached only half of the target capacity. The crisis also briefly boosted enthusiasm for an 8 billion m³/year gas pipeline linking Algeria and Italy via Sardinia; Almost two decades after its inception in 2003, the project is still far from being realized and is often considered a dead duck.

If Algeria still decides to divert gas to Spain to other customers in Europe or beyond, LNG may provide a technical solution. However, Algeria’s aging terminal infrastructure and insufficient supply capacity make it uncertain how much LNG supply can expand.

Even if the option of ending gas exports to Spain is not feasible, it would undermine Algeria’s status as a reliable long-term supplier to Europe. Algeria is on the verge of losing an arbitration battle with Spain for violating a supply contract.

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Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February, European leaders have looked to Algeria as an alternative source of Russian gas. If Sonatrach violates its contractual export obligations with the Spanish gas company Naturgy, most EU countries are not inclined to increase gas imports from Algeria.

Although Algeria is unlikely to cut gas supplies to Spain, it can use other weapons to pressure the Spanish government. Sonatrach announced in April that it intends to increase gas export prices, especially in Spain.

Although these negotiations are based on periodic and price fluctuations, in this case they can still be inevitably linked to the position of Madrid regarding the Western Sahara. Algeria may also be tempted to do less to stop Algerian migrants crossing the Mediterranean into southern Europe.

Algeria Plays Balancing Act As Europe Tries Cut Russian Gas

In addition to bilateral relations, Algeria has work to expand gas production. It cannot increase exports to Europe or beyond unless it makes major new gas discoveries and flows them.

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Algeria’s mature Hassi R’mel field still accounts for about 50% of national production, but production is expected to continue to decline. The field is expected to decline from 2025 to the end of its life, according to consulting firm Wood Mackenzie. This is despite the fact that Sonatrach uses cast drilling and compression techniques to maintain production levels.

Sonatrach’s failure to find large new gas fields can be attributed, at least in part, to the difficult business environment in Algeria for its joint venture partners. The length of the decision in the aforementioned government institutions and the history of delays in Sonatrach and the Ministry of Energy and Energy are remarkable. That said, the improved – but still suboptimal – fiscal conditions are being exploited by the current IOC with oil levels at higher and higher levels.

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