Major gas discoveries offshore Senegal will enable the West African nation to switch its coal and oil-fired power plants to gas generation in the coming years, Petroleum and Energy Minister Mouhamadou Makhtar Cisse said on Nov. 21.

During a gas and power summit in Paris, Cisse said Senegal would import LNG in the first phase of the conversion. The imports will stop around 2022 when the country’s gas production comes on stream.

“Senegal’s gas will principally be used for gas-to-power,” Cisse said, adding the country aimed to build a gas pipeline network of around 450 km.

Two large offshore fields are currently being developed in Senegal. Australia’s Woodside Energy is developing the SNE field, while BP is developing the Greater Tortue Ahmeyim project.

Cisse said 12 new offshore blocks had been put up for bids in a licensing round launched last week, adding Senegal was in talks with partners to raise about $2 billion to finance its share in the development of current oil and gas projects.

Cisse said gas would help lower Senegal’s energy costs and make it more competitive in the region, attracting industries. Production costs are still very high because Senegal depends on fuel imports for its energy, the minister said.

Senegal has about 1.2 gigawatts of installed power capacity for its 15 million inhabitants. Some 70% of the capacity is fossil-fuel coal or oil-fired generators, 22% renewable solar and 8% hydropower.

Senegal’s sole 125-megawatt coal-fired power plant would also be converted to gas-fired, Cisse said.

He added Senegal would add another 1 GW of power generation capacity over the next five years and all of the projects would be private sector ones.