Botswana is seeking financial partners for a $2.5 billion facility that will produce synthetic fuel from coal. According to the minister of energy, the European energy crisis has again triggered the plan.
For almost a decade, the southern African country has debated exploiting its vast coal resources to produce fuel to replace expensive imports. It would follow the example of neighboring South Africa, which has developed coal-to-liquids technology through Sasol.
Government efforts to implement the project have accelerated since Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
“Look at how Europe sends ships to Africa for coal,” Lefoko Moagi, Minister of Minerals and Energy, said in an interview, adding that a rapid transition away from fossil fuels is not practical. “There’s no getting away,” he said. “People have to live.”
Botswana’s stance echoes a common argument in Africa against foreign donors shunning its fossil fuel projects, even though the continent is responsible for only about 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, African regions offer the best conditions for the production of clean energy, including solar and geothermal energy.
“You have to strike a balance between cleaner technologies and reducing carbon emissions, but it can’t just be a clean sweep,” Moagi said.
Botswana, a largely arid country that is the world’s second-largest producer of diamonds, plans to increase the share of its energy sources from renewables to nearly 40 percent by 2036.
The government initially intended to fully own the factory but decided to accept private partners after prioritizing the project to grow the economy.
Sasol, South Africa’s second-largest producer of greenhouse gases, is looking to natural gas to replace coal used in fuel production to reduce the company’s environmental footprint. The Secunda complex alone is one of the largest producers of carbon dioxide.
The government is looking for investors for the coal liquidation project. The government launched 1.11 as well as a national survey on energy use to identify off-grid renewable energy sources such as solar and biogas.