More solar in Algeria – but petrochem will dominate for 100 years

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Ordinarily, the decision by Algerian government-owned Sonatrach to expand its use of solar would be welcomed by the global renewable energy sector, but the news is accompanied by a bullish statement about the primacy of fossil fuels, made by the head of the business.

In an interview with the Oxford Business Group – publicized by Zawya.com – Sonatrach chief executive Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour says his petrochemicals group will join the growing number of fossil fuel companies exploiting solar to power operations.

“Each installation consumes up to 20% of its production,” Mr Kaddour told Oxford Business Group, of his company’s natural gas and oil assets. “The use of solar energy to meet the needs of each installation is absolutely necessary. By 2030, all oil and gas fields will use solar energy to power their facilities.”

Although the use of PV to free up more gas and oil for export is a tacit admission of the affordability of the renewable energy, the Sonatrach chief confirmed the north African country would be betting on fossil fuels for the foreseeable future – around 100 years in fact.

“Things are moving positively,” said Mr Kaddour, appointed head of Sonatrach in March 2017. “We still need fossil energy. We are developing more renewable resources, but we will still be using gas and oil for a long time. Fossil energy has a bright future in Algeria.

“We want to increase our gas production and give it added value. Algeria has no constraints, no limit on the number of cubic meters it can sell, unlike oil, for which OPEC imposes export quotas. Furthermore, petrochemicals will be the most important development sector for Sonatrach in the next century.”

The Algerian government wants to install 22 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030 – 13.6 GW of it solar – and the head of the nation’s solar energy association, Mouloud Bakli, this month gave pv magazine details of various renewable energy tenders, including a planned 100-120 MW reverse auction for off-grid installations by the end of June.

The Algerian government has also outlined a 1.3 GW renewable energy pipeline under the auspices of Sonatrach, although further details have thus far proven elusive.