After Tanger Tech, the Chinese state-owned construction giant and its subsidiary CRBC, associated with the private group Wison, have joined the project to build a Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU). This should allow Morocco to import gas by boat, after the closure of the GME gas pipeline by Algiers.
Now that its mega project Cité Mohammed VI Tangier Tech now seems to be on track, China Communications Construction Co (CCCC) is now focusing on the kingdom’s energy infrastructure. The Chinese construction giant has positioned itself on the call for expressions of interest for the construction of the kingdom’s first floating storage regasification unit (known as FSRU). Among the twenty candidates who responded to the call for expressions of interest closed on October 25 by the new Minister of Energy Leila Benali, there is indeed a consortium led by one of the subsidiaries of CCCC, China Road & Bridge Corp (CRBC). It also includes CCCC Third Harbor, another offshoot of the Chinese group specializing in port infrastructure, as well as a private company, Wison Engineering. Specializing in the petrochemical industry, this Shanghai-based firm has a dedicated subsidiary, Wison Offshore & Marine, which delivered, in 2017, the first “Made in China” FSRU to a Belgian client, Exmar.
The FSRU barge acquisition project should allow Morocco to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) by sea, and to regasify it for distribution to industrial customers as well as to the power stations of the National Office of electricity and drinking water (ONEE). Its importance is crucial in the current context. Indeed, the current geopolitical rivalries with the Algerian neighbor, coupled with the closure on October 31 of the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline (GME), which supplied Spain via Morocco and part of the volume supplied to the kingdom, represent a signal of alarm for Morocco but also for the European Union. This interruption caused the closure of two power plants in eastern Morocco, at Aïn Beni Mathar (472 MW) and Tahaddart (384 MW), without causing any power cuts. However, the energy ministry anticipates a substantial increase in national gas consumption: three billion cubic meters by 2030, against around one billion today. On the basis of the call for expressions of interest, Leila Benali’s services plan to launch a real call for tenders next June. In the meantime, they will have to finalize the choice of the port that will host the FSRU between, in order of preference, Mohammedia, Nador West Med (under construction) and Kénitra.
The CCCC group is no longer present on Moroccan soil. Long discreet in Morocco, CCCC and its subsidiary CRBC landed their first major project in 2019, replacing another Chinese group, Haite, after it had withdrawn from the Tanger Tech project, announced with great fanfare for two years. earlier. This gigantic industrial and business zone project – 468 hectares for the first tranche alone – is expected to attract billions of euros of investments, especially Chinese, in the north of the country. After two years of negotiations, CCCC acquired, last July, 35% of the project company Société d’aménagement de Tanger Tech (SATT), alongside BMCE Bank of Africa (25%), from the region (20%) and the Tangier Mediterranean Special Agency (TMSA, 20%). According to several behind-the-scenes reports, while work has not yet started, the case enjoys the decisive support of the Deputy Minister for Investment Mohcine Jazouli. It was he who, then Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs, signed the memorandum of understanding with CCCC and CRBC in 2019.
CCCC does not wish to stop at gas. The Chinese giant is now dreaming of taking over the Kenitra-Marrakech-Agadir high-speed line market, which is to extend the Tangier-Kénitra line, inaugurated in 2018 and carried by French groups (Colas Rail, Egis Rail, etc.). But this file is currently on stand-by for various reasons. First of all, the pandemic has put a real brake on any major investment in the Kingdom. The case is also delayed due to Chinese and French rivalry around this LGV. It is also a political struggle and competition to determine who will be behind the next Moroccan LGV.