OPEC funding controversial gas study

A gas pipeline is scheduled from Nigeria to Morocco - through Western Sahara. OPEC is footing the bill of the studies.

27 December 2021

Photo: A worker at Dakhla harbour with the work suit of Wisby Tankers, one of the shipping companies transporting petroleum products into occupied Western Sahara. Photo @ElliLorz.

The OPEC Fund for International Development on 15 September approved a 14.3 million USD loan to the Moroccan government for a study of a controversial Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline that is set to go through the territory of Western Sahara. The OPEC's website mentions that its contribution will “specifically co-finance the survey works for the North Area (Senegal - Mauritania – Morocco) of the NMGP. ”

No mention is made by ONHYM or the funders that Western Sahara is also along the pipeline's path. Western Sahara Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) has found no information as to whether the Western Sahara segment of the pipeline is scheduled to be onshore the territory, or on the continental shelf. 

From what WSRW understands, one of the contracts relating to the studies is already awarded to Intecsea, a subsidiary of the Australian multinational Worley. This is also confirmed by one of Intecsea's business partners, Dutch company BSubsea [or download].

The plans for a Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline have been under discussion since they were floated in 2016, but have recently gained some momentum.

Two weeks before the OPEC loan was granted, the Moroccan state owned oil company ONHYM published a general procurement notice on its website, informing that its project is “expected to be jointly financed by the OPEC Fund.”

WSRW has contacted OPEC, enquiring about the organisation's assessment of the legal status of Western Sahara and its people's right to consent. A letter was also sent to Worley, co-signed by Australia Western Sahara Association (AWSA), Australia Unions for Western Sahara and Western Sahara Campaign-New Zealand.

On 29 October, ONHYM proceeded to publish two “Request for Expression of Interest” documents for consultancy services for the carrying out of  Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIA) for the offshore and the onshore segments of the pipeline. In addition, a Land Acquisition Study (LAS), financial audit and surveys will be undertaken.

ONHYM states that the project has already received funding from the Islamic Development Bank towards the procurement of two contracts for the impact assessments. 

The OPEC Fund has 12 member countries, all contributing financially to the fund, according to its website

It further clarifies that “The proposed pipeline starts at a compressor station at Brass Island in Nigeria from where it will go offshore to Morocco. The pipeline will then run onshore to northern Morocco, ultimately connecting to the Maghreb-Europe pipeline. The onshore section will be buried, and compressor stations (CS) will be constructed along the route. For the offshore section it is envisaged that the pipeline will be constructed in shallow water on the continental shelf with a requirement for intermittent onshore CS along the route.”

The expected duration of the studies are between 12 and 14 months, with an expected start date in the first quarter of 2022. Deadline for application was 29 October 2021. 

A board meeting of the Islamic Development Bank 20 June 2021 approved a grant of USD 15.45 million “for the Front-End Engineering Design (FEED) Study", and noted that “the project aims to prepare the necessary studies for the gas pipeline and helps to make the final investment decision for the infrastructure project. It includes an agreement with all countries crossed by the gas pipeline linking Nigeria and Morocco to obtaining the permission to transit the pipeline in order to ensure the smooth implementation of works in the advanced stages, and to ensure that the project complies with all local and international environmental and social regulations and standards.”

It is not the first time that WSRW comes across a problematic OPEC involvement. In 2018, the secretary-general of OPEC attended the controversial Crans Montana conference in the occupied territory. WSRW wrote about the matter, and contacted the organisation. OPEC did not respond.  

WSRW in 2018 enquired about whether OPEC Fund for International Development is in a position to support projects in occupied territory. In 2017, the same Fund supported the Moroccan state owned phosphate company OCP, a company that exploits the phosphate resources in Western Sahara in violation of international law. 

Similarly, this is not the first time that the name of the contracted company Worley appears in relation to occupied Western Sahara. Worley is also a co-owner with the Moroccan state-owned phosphate company OCP of an integrated fertilizer production platform and a new phosphate wharf. The operation is done through a 50/50 joint-venture company with OCP called JESA (Jacobs Engineering SA). The latter is described as a Moroccan construction and engineering firm. JESA has projects in Morocco, and in other African countries. JESA is also described as the project owner of the Foum El Oued Technopole project. WSRW wrote Worley in December 2019 and again in March 2021 regarding its phosphates involvement, but has not yet received a response. 


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