Greater Tortue Ahmeyim Project
Africa's Deepest Offshore Project
Off the coast of Mauritania and Senegal, BP plans to extract and liquefy fossil gas in Africa’s deepest offshore project.14817 BP’s project threatens to lock both countries into a fossil development path and puts the world’s largest cold-water reef and migratory bird populations at risk.
Right on the maritime border between the two West African countries, a consortium of BP, Kosmos Energy, Société des Pétroles du Sénégal and Société Mauritanienne des Hydrocarbures are developing two offshore gas fields, Tortue and Ahmeyim.14819 The companies want to extract gas from ultra deep wells in water depths of 2,850 meters.14821
The gas will flow from Tortue and Ahmeyim through an 80 km long underwater pipeline to a floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel where the gas is cleaned. From here, the processed gas is transferred through a 35 km long underwater pipeline to a floating LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) terminal. A 1 km long breakwater out of concrete and rock will protect the vessel and export carriers from harsh weather and ocean conditions. Construction of the LNG facility is almost finished, and BP aims to begin production in 2023.14821
The Greater Tortue Ahmeyim (GTA) reserves hold almost 425 billion cubic meters of fossil gas. BP is already considering the development of further fields in the basin, which is estimated to hold up to 1,133 billion cubic meters of gas.14823 When burned, these vast reserves would release around 2.2 billion tons of CO₂ into the atmosphere. BP’s plans threaten to recklessly chip away between 0.3 and 1 percent of the remaining carbon budget to limit global warming to a vital 1.5°C.14825
BP Outrages International Scientists
While BP and the governments of Senegal and Mauritania market GTA as a prestige project, local communities, environmentalists and researchers raise serious concerns.14827
In 2018, a group of international scientists advised the Mauritanian government to establish marine conservation zones in the area where BP wants to build the pipelines, the FPSO and the LNG terminal.14825 They also demanded thorough environmental assessments for any fossil fuel development in the region. Months later, 10 marine scientists wrote an outraged letter to BP, stating that the company’s environmental impact assessment downplays the serious ecological risks of the GTA project for water birds and the marine environment. The letter calls BP’s assessment of expected impacts “fundamentally wrong”.14829
The coast off Senegal and Mauritania is a unique region with a rich wildlife. It provides a refuge for millions of water birds each year on their journey between Africa and the Arctic. The birds rely on these coastal waters to feed and rest on their route. In this exact area, BP plans to build the FPSO, the floating LNG terminal and the pipelines.14825
Less than 5 km away from the planned terminal lies Mauritania’s Dialing National Park, home to 250 different species of birds.14825 At a similar distance in Senegalese waters, whales and dolphins feed in the Marine Protected Area of Saint-Louis. The Langue de Barbarie National Park, a nesting site for sea turtles, is 15 km away from BP’s planned LNG terminal. The Djoudi National Park is only 35 km away. Djoudi, a large wetland in the Senegal River Delta, is a sanctuary for over 1.5 million birds and protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site.14831 Even closer to the gas infrastructure lies the Guembeul Natural Reserve. Flamingos, tortoises and monkeys live in this important wetland.14825
A Unique Ecosystem at Risk
If BP goes through with its plans, it also risks destroying the world’s largest cold-water coral reef.14825 The reef stretches 580 km along the Mauritanian coast down to Senegal. The coral formations are 100 meters high and lie half a kilometer below the sea’s surface. This unique ecosystem took over 200,000 years to grow and stores enormous amounts of carbon.
The reef and the surrounding seafloor are one of the most biodiverse areas of the Mauritanian coastline and are critical for the survival of endemic species.14833 Fish, crabs, giant clams and sponges live here, as well as black coral, one of the oldest living organisms on Earth. BP’s proposed gas pipelines will snake through one of the most sensitive parts of the reef. The installation of the pipelines will swirl up the sediment, which could suffocate the living corals and destroy the vivid underwater world.14825
The coral reef is an important habitat for fishery resources in the region.14829 For local fishing communities, the project is a nightmare as they depend on fish for their livelihood and as a main source of protein. Artisanal fisherfolk come here every day to make a living for their families. The safety zone BP is setting up around the breakwater structure will significantly reduce their fishing area, but BP has, up to now, not offered any compensation for the fisher’s loss of income.14835
A spill of condensate from BP’s wells could poison the rich wildlife on the West African coast and the livelihood of coastal fishers.14825 Condensate is a byproduct of gas extraction that is almost invisible and therefore extremely difficult to clean up. Unless it is contained, a condensate spill would hit the coast of Mauritania and Senegal in less than a week. It would reach the Mauritanian and Senegalese national parks, the Saint-Louis Marine Protected Area and the Guembeul Wetland Reserve. The poisonous condensate would kill birds, whales, dolphins, fish and other endangered animals on the West African coast. The GTA project is a serious threat to the coastal ecosystems and the people of Mauritania and Senegal.