Algeria’s state energy firm is ready to supply Europe with more gas if the Russian military operation in Ukraine leads to a major disruption.
Sonatrach CEO Toufik Hakkar said the firm was ready to pump additional gas to the European Union from its surplus via the Tansmed pipeline linking Algeria to Italy.
Sonatrach is “a reliable gas supplier for the European market and is willing to support its long term partners in the event of difficult situations,” Hakkar was quoted as saying in the daily Liberte.
Hakkar nonetheless said this would be contingent on the availability of a surplus of gas or liquified natural gas (LNG) once the national demand and “contractual engagements” are met.
He pointed to an “unused capacity” in the Transmed pipeline that could be used to “increase the supplies to the European market”.
The Tansmed pipeline, jointly operated with Italy’s ENI, has a capacity of some 32 million cubic metres per year, four times that of the Medgaz pipeline to Spain.
The top executive added that Sonatrach could expand its supplies to countries not currently served by existing pipelines via LNG tankers.
Hakkar said Europe is the “natural market of choice” for Algerian gas, which accounts for about 11 percent of Europe’s gas imports.
Former Algerian energy minister Abdelmajid Attar told AFP that “Algeria exports a maximum of 22 billion cubic metres (of gas) via the Transmed pipeline”, leaving a capacity of 10 billion cubic metres.
He nonetheless noted that Algeria alone will not be able to “compensate for the decline in Russian gas supply”, noting that it can offer a maximum of two or three million additional cubic metres.
Attar, who also previously served as Sonatrach’s CEO, added that LNG can also be transported via tankers, noting that existing liquefaction plants are only operating at 50-60 percent capacity.
The former minister said that in the medium term, “in four or five months, Algeria can send larger quantities”, however noting that the country must first “develop new reserves” of shale gas.
Sonatrach announced in January that it would invest 40 billion U.S. dollars into oil exploration, production and refinement, as well as gas prospecting and extraction, between 2022 and 2026.