Please Come Back, Mozambique Begs TOTAL Again - Africa’s premier report on the oil, gas and energy landscape.

Please Come Back, Mozambique Begs TOTAL Again

Filipe Nyusi’s keynote address at the Mozambique Mining & Energy Conference (MMEC), is the latest, clear indication that TOTALEnergies has not expressly determined it was going to move back to the site of construction of the 13Million Tonnes Per Year Liquefied Natural Gas project in the country.

The Mozambican President’s speech on Wednesday April 26, 2023, sought to convince the French Major and the international audience at the meet that it was safe for the company to restart its Cabo Delgado liquefied natural gas (LNG) project that was halted in 2021 following wide scale insurgent attacks on civilians.

“The working environment and security in northern Mozambique makes it possible for TOTAL to resume its activities any time,” Nyusi declared, referring to the 18 month old offensive by Mozambique and its partners, Rwanda and other Southern African countries, against the Islamic State backed insurgents, whose killing spree in the towns and villages close to the LNG site surged to a historic high in 2021, forcing TOTAL to declare a force majeure on the $20Billion project.

TOTALEnergies’ Chairman and Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanne visited Mozmbique in February 2023 to meet President Nyusi and review the security and humanitarian situation in Cabo Delgado, the northern province of Mozambique where the project is domiciled.  The company announced the appointment of Jean-Christophe Rufin, said to be an expert in humanitarian action and human rights, to independently assess the situation in Cabo Delgado province.

Since that visit, however, media speculations had tended towards suggesting a likely return of TOTAL and its contractors to the site sometime in 2023. A March 2023 report quoting Saipem, the Italian contractor, as saying it had “agreed to restart a liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Mozambique for TOTALEnergies in July 2023, was the biggest fuel in the speculation. “We expect to gradually restart the (Mozambique) project, according to the information received by our clients, starting from July this year,” Saipem CEO Alessandro Puliti said during a call on the group’s results for 2022.

TOTALEnergies itself never publicly gave any specific schedule of return.

Mozambique’s defence forces and their partners have since made inroads against the enemy since the April 2021 insurgent attack that “chased” TOTAL out of the project’s perimeter. The troops have taken back strategic roads and pushed the insurgents out of most of their bases, reportedly killing hundreds of fighters, according to International Crisis Group, a civil society organization with detailed monitoring scans on the challenges. “But despite being weakened, and seemingly no longer able to conduct complex and high-profile attacks al-Shabab (the terror group) adapted quickly, breaking up into small cells, the militants spread out across a larger area, raiding villages and security posts. Sixteen of Cabo Delgado’s seventeen districts suffered attacks in 2022”, the Crisis Group details in a comprehensive report in January 2023. “Insurgents also appear to be making occasional incursions into neighbouring Niassa and Nampula provinces and across the border with Tanzania and have also received their own boost from outside, as the Islamic State leadership named al-Shabab as one of its provinces, and more systematically began claiming the latter’s activities as its own”.

Mozambique is keen on taking advantage of the current high prices of LNG and the global shift towards cleaner sources of energy.

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