Does Africa have the ability to store all the extra carbon dioxide that it is expected to generate in the coming decades?
The answer, according to Equinor researcher Philip Ringrose, is a resounding yes.
Speaking at a recent Africa E&P event, he said Africa has “fantastic geological basins all around the coastline”, while onshore there are “many very good potential storage domains”.
The Zululand basin in South Africa is a well-mapped onshore area. Nigeria and Ghana are also starting to look at storage resources.
One area being studied for its carbon capture and storage (CCS) potential is the Rovuma basin offshore northern Mozambique, which extends north into Tanzania.
Oscar Nhabanga, from Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique, told the event the Rovuma basin has more similarities with the US Gulf of Mexico and Indonesia’s Kutai basin than the Norwegian North Sea, largely because of the sealing potential of the mud rocks in the areas.
In addition, “Africa has pegged its stake in the ground and done some CCS,” said Ringrose, citing an industrial-scale CO2 storage facility at BP’s In Salah oil and gas field in Algeria.
The CCS scheme at In Salah, where Equinor is a partner, stored more than 3 million tonnes of CO2 before being stopped in 2011 due to capacity limits in the geological structure.
Studies are also under way to assess the possibility of storing CO2 in the volcanic rocks of Ethiopia’s Blue Nile area.
Even so, continent-wide data remain scarce, given that CCS has only recently wedged itself into public, corporate and political consciousness.
Africa’s CO2 storage potential “is available”, said Ringrose. “It’s just a question of being focused on it and maturing our society to address that change.”
He believes Africa “could be ready for storage, but it needs to move fast”, highlighting a lack of political champions.
“Very few African politicians and leaders on energy have really thought hard about CCS and decarbonisation, but I have met representatives from Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa who are engaged on the topic,” he said.
A low-emissions economy “is clearly within reach” for African nations, he added, even with the expected high pace of economic development.