French oil major Total has inked a US$14.9bn senior debt financing agreement for its Mozambique liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, in what it says is the biggest project financing deal ever struck in Africa.

The Mozambique LNG project, which has been in the pipeline since US exploration and production (E&P) firm Anadarko discovered sizeable reserves off the country’s coast in 2010, will develop the Golfinho and Atum offshore natural gas fields and construct an onshore liquefaction plant with a total capacity of 13.1 million tonnes a year.

Total took on the role as main operator of the project last year, after buying out Anadarko’s shareholding in September, and production is expected  from 2024.

The new financing comes in the form of direct and covered loans from eight export credit agencies (ECAs), 19 commercial banks and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

The majority of the project’s total investment amount of US$20bn has now been raised, with Jean-Pierre Sbraire, chief financial officer of Total, saying that the deal “demonstrates the confidence placed by the financial institutions in the long-term future of LNG in Mozambique”.

The financing takes place against the backdrop of the coronavirus outbreak and the ensuing plunge in oil prices, which act as a benchmark for the LNG market.

Another major LNG project in the area was put on hold in recent months in the wake of the pandemic, with ExxonMobil postponing the final investment decision (FID) on the Rovuma LNG gas project until next year.

The ECAs involved in the Total deal include the Export-Import Bank of the United States (US Exim), the Japan Bank for International Corporation (JBIC), Nippon Export and Investment Insurance (Nexi), UK Export Finance (UKEF), Italy’s Sace, the Export Credit Insurance Corporation of South Africa (ECIC), Atradius and the Export-Import Bank of Thailand (Exim Thailand).

In a press release, US Exim notes that it is set to provide a direct loan of US$4.7bn to the project, once documents are finalised and conditions are satisfied.

JBIC also notes in a statement that its portion of the total financing is a loan worth US$3bn, and that by financing the deal, it is aiming to secure “stable supplies” of LNG for Japan in the coming years, a key policy in the Japanese government’s 2018 Strategic Energy Plan.

While Total is the operator of the fields, Japanese firm Mitsui has a 20% participating interest, and will work with others to develop the fields and produce gas in the future.

On the back of this, JBIC says Japan will import LNG from Mozambique for the first time ever, and expects Japanese utility companies to offtake approximately 30% of the LNG produced by this project.