Mozambique’s story is a well-worn one on the African continent – it is a country with enormous natural riches, made inaccessible by poverty and civil war.

So celebrations were muted when large natural gas reserves were found off the country’s coast: Bringing the fuel to market was impossible without first sinking significant time and money into building land-based refineries and gas processing facilities.

In the end, innovative thinking prevailed, leaving Mozambicans with a chance of benefiting from new off-shore extraction, production and storage infrastructure that can be quickly and cheaply obtained.

Getting at Coral

The gas field in question, Coral South, was discovered by Italian oil major Eni in 2012. More than 2 kilometres beneath the surface of the ocean, it comprises 450 billion cubic metres of gas.

It could potentially put Mozambique on the map as a major producer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) alongside countries like Qatar – if it weren’t for the fact that the country doesn’t have the means to bring it to market.

The solution is a relatively new development worked on by the government and Eni East Africa (EEA) to bring the gas to market quickly – a floating LNG facility.

Unlike sprawling conventional onshore refineries and gas-processing facilities, these technologically advanced vessels are moored above offshore gas fields and perform the same operations – producing, liquefying and storing gas in a quarter of the space, with strict weight limitations.

Coral South FLNG will be the world’s fifth such vessel, and Africa’s first. It will also be the world’s first ultra-deep water FLNG facility.

The $8 billion project was launched by Mozambique President Felipe Nyusi on June 1, 2017. When it becomes operational in 2022, it will liquefy more than 3.3 million tons of gas per year – equivalent to 5 billion cubic meters.

Changing lives on a grand scale

Helping to build it is Baker Hughes, a GE Company. BHGE reports that the discovery has already begun to change lives. Two years ago – before any contracts were signed – the company hired 20 local engineers and trained them to work on the project. Since then, they have travelled to sites around the world, learning to work with BHGE technology.

In addition, BHGE has funded engineering scholarships at Eduardo Mondlane University, Maputo – important for developing a future oil and gas talent pipeline for Mozambique.

On a larger scale, Coral South is about supplying clean energy to the developing world while also catalysing the development of infrastructure and the project capability required for future projects with benefit to the country.

With a natural gas reserve promising decades of income and jobs growth, an educational infrastructure that is getting supercharged, and the possibility of energy independence on the horizon, Mozambique might just be poised to see the end of many of its struggles!