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Trans-Sahara pipeline sees founders

An ambitious plan to build a natural gas pipeline from Nigeria across the Sahara Desert to supply Europe has been discussed at a conference in Brussels with banks, international donor agencies and other prospective investors taking part.

It is possible the European Union might pay some of the €9.5 billion ($13 billion) cost. EU Energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs is enthusiastic. He told conference participants: “The diversification of suppliers and routes is a key part of the EU energy supply security strategy. At the same time I would like to emphasize that I am convinced that the Trans-Sahara gas pipeline could constitute a promising supply route and source for the EU.” “(The) EU can guarantee security of demand. This is very clear,” he said, adding that 85% of EU demand for natural gas would likely have to be covered by imports in 2030.

The pipeline would run almost 4,300 kilometers, from the volatile and violence plagued Niger Delta to the Algerian coast, planned as a joint venture between Algeria's Sonatrach and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, is designed to allow Nigeria to export its huge natural gas reserves more easily to European markets. Algeria currently exports liquefied gas across the Mediterranean from ports in the east and west of the country and plans a pipeline to Sardinia in Italy.

The three countries involved with the Trans-Sahara pipeline - Nigeria, Niger and Algeria - have already had feasibility studies carried out which found the project feasible technically and economically. The money could come from European governments and gas companies facing declining domestic supplies from areas like the North Sea and worried about an increasing reliance on gas from Russia.
Critics of the pipeline say it faces too many risks - from turmoil in the Niger delta to banditry - to be viable. (,