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TotalEnergies invests in Iraqi solar, gas, water sectors amid deadly drought

08 September 2021 Cristina Brooks

TotalEnergies is set to help Iraq build the water, gas and power facilities, including a 1-GW solar power plant, urgently needed to get the southern city of Basra through a crisis.

In Basra, the French company will invest in equipment to recover associated natural gas flared at three oil fields, a gas gathering network, and treatment units to supply the gas to local power stations, according to a 6 September statement. It will also provide expertise to the operators of the Ratawi oil field.

The agreement also sees the company providing a seawater treatment unit for water injection at several fossil fuel extraction fields in the Basra area.

The seawater is needed so that water is not diverted from the population amid a water shortage. On 13 August, aid groups working in the region warned that drought and record low rainfall was depriving 12 million people in Syria and Iraq of access to water, food, and electricity.

In Iraq, drought threatens wheat production, fisheries, power production from hydroelectric dams, and drinking water supplies.

Higher temperatures caused by climate change have increased the severity of drought, the groups said. "In the longer term, beyond emergency food and water, they need to invest in sustainable solutions to the water crisis," said anti-poverty nonprofit CARE's regional director Nirvana Shawky, adding that donor governments needed to act swiftly to save lives in the region.

At the same time, Iraq is experiencing electricity shortages due to increased demand from the population. TotalEnergies' planned recovery installations will allow the country to add 1.5 GW of gas-fired power generation capacity in the first phase of the deal and an additional 1.5 GW in the second phase.

Solar generation

The French major will also develop 1 GW of solar generation capacity to supply the Basra regional grid. TotalEnergies CEO Patrick Pouyanné said its ambition was to be part of Iraq's sustainable future, including through water management and solar development.

Building more renewable generation in Iraq is an economic strategy jointly called for in an article last week by Iraqi Finance Minister Ali Allawi and the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol.

The doubling of Iraq's poverty rates last year, largely as a result of the decline in oil demand and revenues during the COVID-19 pandemic, serve as a warning in Iraq, they said.

An Iraqi government February white paper on economic reform outlined a vision of reduced reliance on hydrocarbon exports, as well as addressing the country's budget deficit, which lawmakers estimated to be $19.79 billion in March.

Iraq's oil ministry in 2020 set a target of eliminating flaring of natural gas, which it flares of more than any other except Russia.

Geopolitics

Iraq is currently increasing its oil exports alongside plans to develop more renewable energy generation and grow domestic use of gas to ward off power shortages.

Iraq is also under pressure from the US to stop importing electricity and gas for power generation from Iran, a country on which the US placed sanctions in 2019.

In line with United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's principle of "common-but-differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities", which asserts developed countries have more responsibility to pay for adaptation and mitigation, some have asked whether developed countries should pay to decarbonize Iraq.

OPEC member states like Iraq mulled the question of financial support for adaptation and mitigation actions at a First Ministerial Roundtable on Energy, Climate, and Sustainable Development on 6 September, according to OPEC.

Posted 08 September 2021 by Cristina Brooks, Senior Journalist, Climate & Sustainability, IHS Markit

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