AMINA BENKHADRA

Morocco 2020 | GREEN ECONOMY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Amina Benkhadra, General Manager of the Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines (ONHYM), on new trends in the sector, energy efficiency, and other renewable energy developments.

What are some of the new trends that you are working on?

In Morocco, we have developed an energy strategy in which renewable energies take a prominent place, thanks to the strategic vision of His Majesty King Mohammed VI in 2009. Our 2020 goal aims for 42% of our electrical capacity to come from solar, wind, and hydraulic sources; the objective by 2030 is 52%. ONHYM as a public organization representing the interests of the Kingdom of Morocco in the field of Exploration and Production of Hydrocarbons and Mining resources has also the mission to search for all the energy potentials of subsoil and geothermal energy. Concerning geothermal sources, for several years now we have done evaluation studies on the whole country, and we have identified two large areas: Morocco's northeast and south. In the northeast, detailed studies have been carried out to identify the most favorable zones for geothermal energy. We have done a survey of all the potential pockets in the area that will undergo more refined work, since further drilling is necessary to precisely measure some parameters. In the south, meanwhile, the studies are in their first stages; we are making an inventory of all the potential geothermal areas that will have an impact on industrial development.

Why is geothermal energy efficient for the country?

As a renewable energy source, geothermal energy is an underground source that does not emit CO2, making it sustainable as an energy source. There are countries in northern Europe like Finland that produce almost 70% of their electricity from geothermal sources. Of course, they have much higher temperature gradients there, but we are looking into all the potential sources. It is an ongoing process, and we will see results later as we go deeper into the data. We need more drilling to measure the gradients in some areas in detail, and we will move forward gradually to make sure that this energy can find a place if the results are convincing.

You signed six petroleum agreements with international companies in 2019. What are the investment opportunities that the country is offering to these international investors?

ONHYM's mission is to attract the maximum number of international companies, majors, juniors and independents to support exploration, which is one of our main missions, alongside promotion. Most of the investments in the field of hydrocarbon exploration in Morocco are made by partners. Looking at investment figures, more than 96% is financed by foreign investors every year. These numbers are due to multiple reasons. One is that Morocco has favorable geology in sedimentary basins, but these have not been sufficiently explored despite the efforts made. Second is our hydrocarbons code, which is considered one of the most attractive in the world: we grant favorable conditions to those investing in exploration including exemptions from customs duties and VAT on important equipment, exemption of corporate tax up to 10 years from the date of production; In case of discovery, the partner owns 75%. A third point is our global macroeconomic framework in terms of political security and geographical positioning. In this North African zone, we are close to Europe, the Middle East, the US, and sub-Saharan Africa. This interesting geographical position makes us a hub in the energy sector. We, therefore, wish to use this position to increase our regional integration.

What is going to be the role of ONHYM in the future if there is a shift towards more renewable sources of energy?

The goal for 2030 is 52% of the installed capacity to be from renewable sources. The country's energy strategy has four fundamentals: the country's supply security; energy's availability at the best price; regional integration; sustainable development and environmental protection. In order to have energy security, we need a diversified electricity mix where all sources have their place. We are engaged in an energy transition where renewable energies will be positioned more in our mix, but we also had to build new clean coal power plants to ensure the balance and security of the country 10 years ago when there was no gas available for us. Since 2010 with the shale gas revolution, gas is more available. In any case, in the energy transition, whether it be global, regional, or national, gas is considered to be the backbone of the energy mix of today and tomorrow. Today more than 80% of the global energy sources are thermal, meaning coal, oil, and gas. The rest is split between nuclear and renewable energy. In 2040, 74% of this mix will still be thermal energy. Looking at the fossil fuels portfolio, coal will decrease and oil will decrease, but gas will increase as it is considered clean energy. Therefore, despite the green revolution, thermal energies are still predominant but with a stronger emphasis on gas. ONHYM's mission is to explore underground to identify potential sources of gas or oil. Morocco is totally committed to the dynamic of sustainable development deriving from the Royal will and vision that is being implemented. However, it does not stop us from looking for potential gas resources, because it is also an important resource in this ongoing energy transformation. At the same time, we will continue to seek out other substances such as geothermal sources. The Moroccan energy strategy, while being ambitious, remains realistic by being part of global energy trends in the long term and taking into account the real potential of Morocco. ONHYM, as an operator in hydrocarbons, promotes the use of natural gas, which is clean energy and essential for balancing the energy mix with renewable energies. We have regions that have potential. Many areas have oil or gas shows (Gharb, Essaouira, Tendrara). The discoveries are modest but it allow replenishment of reserves and assure our customers a continuity of gas supply.