Moroccan Energy Security: A 12-Month Outlook

Morocco has a long-running dispute with Algeria over the status of the Western Sahara. Last year, Algeria suspended the flow of gas to Morocco following a worsening of relations between the two neighbours. The Moroccan energy sector is relying on closer links with EU member states to subsidize Algerian gas as well as combat the insurgent forces of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). As Europe struggles to fill the void of Russian energy imports, Morocco could become a useful partner in achieving this goal. 

KJ-1: It is highly likely that Morocco will enhance investment in its own energy infrastructure in the coming 12 months.

  • Morocco has almost 30 trillion cubic feet of conventional and non-conventional hydrocarbons available [source]. 
  • Nigeria’s Petroleum Minister approved initial financing proposals of roughly $14 million for a new pipeline which would supply European markets through Morocco [source]. 
  • The deal was proposed in 2016, but Moroccan energy security only regained importance following the diplomatic crisis with Algeria [source].
  • Morocco’s National Office of Hydrocarbons and Minerals (NOHM) confirmed that the country was actively negotiating a deal between Nigeria and the EU to boost LNG imports to Morocco [source]. 
  • NOHM is also planning to build distribution networks to supply gas to newly developed industrial centres [source]. 
  • Moroccan Energy Minister Leila Benali indicated that the ports of Jorf Lasfar, Mohammedia and Nador could be slated for development into LNG reception and conversion centres [source].
  • The government has also indicated that it is actively partnering with foreign investors and private enterprises to build a floating regasification facility [source].
  • Moreover, the government cited the war in Ukraine and the dispute with Algeria when discussing the country’s need for energy independence [source]. 

KJ-2: It is likely that Morocco will pursue deeper relationships with the US and EU member states in the next 12 months.

  • Spain was willing to depart from establish practice and recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara [source]. 
  • The Polisario Front expressed dissatisfaction with Spain’s decision to back Morocco’s plan to grant the region autonomy [source]. 
  • Spain also arrested the leader of the Polisario Front, but he was released from custody by a Spanish court [source].
  • The EU threatened to impose sanctions on Algeria over the issue of halting gas supplies [source]. 
  • Spain began re-exporting gas to Morocco after Algeria suspend the flow of gas to its neighbour. This led to a thawing of diplomatic relations with Madrid [source]. 
  • Following the election of Chancellor Scholz, Germany also reversed course on the issue of Western Sahara [source].
  • Morocco hosted the US-African Business Summit in July and used the opportunity to solidify regional partnerships with key African states and the US [source]. 
  • Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and US Vice President Kamala Harris both stressed the importance of bi-relations [source]. 
  • Morocco normalized relations with a key US ally, Israel. Moreover, Morocco aligned itself with the US over the war in Ukraine by participating in NATO-led talks at Rammstein [source].  

KJ-3: It is unlikely that the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic will threaten Moroccan energy security in the next 12 months.

  • Substantial hydrocarbon deposits were found in the northern Tindouf region of Western Sahara in 2018 [source]. 
  • Morocco is able to guarantee the success of energy exploration and infrastructural development projects due to a strong security presence around the UN buffer zone [source].
  • Concerns that Hezbollah is financing the Polisario Front enhanced diplomatic and security cooperation between Morocco and Israel [source].
  • Morocco purchased Israeli drones, assault rifles and spyware [source]. Morocco also acquired Sherpa armoured vehicles from France [source]. 
  • The Royal Moroccan Air Force will receive new H135 helicopters from Airbus this year [source].
  • Morocco recently finished constructing an air base in Sidi Yahya el-Gharb. The base will house new missile systems from China, the US and Israel [source].
  • Moreover, two Belgian aerospace firms signed an agreement with Lockheed Martin to build an aircraft maintenance facility in Morocco. The facility is meant to assist Morocco in maintaining its C-130 and F-16 fleets [source]. 
  • The Sahrawi People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) possesses an estimated 100 T-55 and T-62 Soviet-made battle tanks [source]. 
  • The SPLA also has at least several dozen BMP-1s as well as GRAD missile launchers. These systems are imprecise or outdated [source]. 
  • The SPLA’s anti-air capability is made up of SA-6, SA-8 and SA-9 missile systems, which have become obsolete in the last decade [source]. 
  • The SPLA’s gradual loss of anti-air capability led to the degradation of its overall military capacity [source]. 
  • The SPLA can no longer rely on heavy weapons and towed artillery units, instead relying on hit-and-run tactics to assault Moroccan troops [source]. 
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