• The 550-kilometer line will import fuel from Djibouti coast
  • Venture estimated at $1.55 billion; construction by 2018

Ethiopia and Djibouti signed an agreement for a $1.55 billion fuel pipeline with developers Mining, Oil & Gas Services and Blackstone Group LP-backed Black Rhino Group.

The two countries in the Horn of Africa signed framework agreements on Tuesday for construction of the 550-kilometer (340-mile) line to transport diesel, gasoline and jet fuel from port access in Djibouti to central Ethiopia, the companies said. Financial close is expected in 2016, with construction scheduled for completion two years later.

Growth in landlocked Ethiopia has surpassed every other sub-Saharan country over the past decade, and the government has boosted spending to expand infrastructure. Fuel is typically delivered by tanker truck.

"The pipeline will increase energy security, aid economic development and reduce harmful emissions,” Black Rhino Chief Executive Officer Brian Herlihy said in the statement. The 50-50 joint venture with MOGS, a unit of Johannesburg-based Royal Bafokeng Holdings, will seek to raise at least $1 billion of senior debt financing.

The project, known as the Horn of Africa Pipeline, includes an import facility and 950,000 barrels of storage capacity in Damerjog, Djibouti, linked to a storage terminal in Awash, Ethiopia. The 20-inch (51-centimeter) line is capable of transporting 240,000 barrels a day of fuel. The concession period after commercial operations start is for as many as 30 years.