Mauritania Table of Contents
Mauritania was completely dependent on petroleum imports for its commercial and electrical generating needs. That dependence increased in the later 1980s as overexploitation of the country's meager supply of woodlands led to further use of petroleum products to meet domestic energy needs. In the early 1980s, firewood provided one-half of gross domestic energy supply and, with charcoal, over 90 percent of residential energy needs. Annual firewood consumption was eight times greater than the natural growth rate of the accessible forests. Between 1975 and 1985, overexploitation combined with drought damage and almostnonexistent reforestation programs to reduce forest areas by 30 percent overall. In some areas, forests were reduced by as much as 50 percent. As a result of this declining firewood production and the total dependence of the modern sector on petroleum-based energy, the share of imported petroleum products in domestic consumption increased from 33 percent in 1975 to 55 percent in 1983.
By 1983 petroleum products provided over one-half of all energy supplies. Because of its use in electrical power generation, mining, and transportation, diesel fuel was the most important type of petroleum product, accounting for 75 percent of consumption. It was followed in importance by gasoline (16 percent), jet and aviation fuels (7 percent), butane (1.3 percent), and kerosene (0.7 percent). Consumption of butane grew rapidly in 1982 and 1983 in response to shortages of firewood for cooking in urban areas. In the mid-1980s, Nouakchott and southern Mauritania accounted for about 55 percent of total consumption of petroleum products, with Nouadhibou and Zouîrât accounting for virtually all the rest. In 1983 mining (plus the tiny manufacturing sector) consumed 42 percent of all petroleum products; transport, including fisheries, consumed 32.5 percent; electricity generation, 20 percent; government and commerce, 3 percent; residential use, 2 percent; and agriculture, less than 0.5 percent.
By the mid-1980s, Mauritania's installed electrical generating capacity was 162 megawatts. The National Electricity and Water Company (Société Nationale d'Eau et d'Electricité-- SONELEC) accounted for only about 25 percent of that capacity, and only half of SONELEC's generating capacity was considered reliable. Nouakchott and Nouadhibou consumed 90 percent of SONELEC's generated power. SNIM generated all its own electrical needs for mining and for supply operations at Nouadhibou. The plant that supplied power to the Guelbs mine and ore beneficiation facility (56 megawatts) increased the nation's total generating capacity by about 35 percent. Other selfproducers included an unknown number of small industrial, commercial, and residential establishments that proliferated as supplies from SONELEC became less reliable.
As a result of the serious technical, financial, and managerial problems faced by SONELEC, the company underwent a rehabilitation program under the 1985-88 Economic Recovery Program. The program included the construction of a new, costsaving power plant in Nouakchott that was scheduled to begin operations in 1990. By 1987 SONELEC's implementation of the program included improving bill collection, cutting labor costs by a 10 percent personnel reduction, and increasing prices by up to 30 percent. In 1978 Mauritania completed construction of a US$140 million oil refinery at Nouadhibou. The refinery operated only briefly in 1982 and 1983 because of cost factors, shortages of crude oil, and technical difficulties. Between 1984 and 1987, the refinery underwent an Algerian-financed US$30 million rehabilitation to allow the processing of light Algerian crude. The project also included a butane bottling facility and a desalinization plant. The refinery reopened in early 1987 with a production capacity of 1 million tons per year. Refinery officials signed a five-year contract with Algeria's state-owned oil company to manage and market its products. A joint venture that included Mauritania, certain private interests, and the Algerian company was formed to bottle and market butane domestically. The butane plant, located in Nouakchott, started operations in 1987 with an annual capacity of 5,000 tons. Because of the high cost of Mauritanian-produced butane, the plant imported butane from Senegal for its operations.
Data as of June 1988
Mauritania Table of Contents