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Oil-rich Algeria invites India companies for $10-bn gas pipeline project

New Delhi, Aug 22 (Calcutta Tube) Oil-rich Algeria, the second largest country in Africa, has invited Indian companies to participate in a $10-billion project to build an ambitious trans-Saharan gas pipeline originating from Nigeria via neigbouring Niger.

‘We need more foreign partners outside Europe for this 4,000-km-long project,’ Algerian Ambassador to India Echarif Mohammed-Hacene said, referring to the pipeline, which aims to provide some European companies some alternatives to Russia gas.

‘We hope Indian companies will show interest – not only for capital formation, but also to build the capacity itself,’ Mohammed-Hacene told IANS in an interview, underscoring how much Algiers is favourably disposed to participation by India Inc.

The ambassador said Algeria, one of the largest producers and exporters of natural gas in the world, has had some good experiences with the state-run Indian Oil Corp that has a $3-billion pact with his country’s own public sector company Sonatrach.

The two state-owned firms had successfully bid for major hydrocarbon blocks in Libya.

Some of the world’s biggest companies have evinced interest in the project, he said referring to Russia’s Gazprom , Italy’s ENI, France’s Total and Anglo-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell.

Nigeria, which claims the world’s seventh largest gas reserves with about 183 trillion cubic feet, is willing to set aside 13-15 trillion cubic feet for the project. Algeria’s own pipeline system extends under the Mediterranean Sea to Spain and Italy.

The ambassador said the reason why his country seeks new partners is simple: Europe is too close for their liking. ‘Spain is only 180 km from our coast. The level of European pressure on our economy is so strong it weakens us. We want new partners.’

He said his vision was to see two-way trade between India and Algeria more than double over the next three years from $2 billion to $5 billion and for that it was crucial to explore areas that stretch beyond energy and other traditional sectors.

‘India is our very good partner because the level of political confidence between us is very high. We’ve seen it in the past many examples where we needed foreign assistance. Where Europe refused us, India accepted. So, it is a matter of confidence.’

(Lakshmi Krishnakumar can be contacted at lakshmi.k@ians.in)

–Indo-Asian News Servide

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