Gas and oil exploration activities in the southern part of the country have registered a major boost with the discovery of new natural gas reserves, bringing the estimated total reserves in the deep sea within the past three years to 20.97 trillion cubic feet.
The figures on gas reserves for potential economic development were disclosed by Minister for Energy and Minerals Prof Sospteter Muhongo at a press briefing here yesterday.
The minister said the amount of gas stated included a gas well that was discovered on Wednesday code-named Lavani. The discovery is the result of exploration activities being carried out by Statoil Company, operating in collaboration with Exxon Mobil on block two located east of Lindi region, about 80 off the coast.
“In the past three years there has been increased natural gas and oil exploration activities. These activities have been concentrated in the deep sea of the Indian Ocean,” he noted.
Minister Muhongo could not reveal the exact volume of the natural gas discovered. However, the Guardian on Sunday has been reliably informed by sources in the Ministry of Energy and Minerals and Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC) that the volume of gas in question was estimated at around 5 trillion cubic feet.
This amount exceeds the estimated reserves at Mnazi Bay, in Mtwara region, where the government is planning to construct a gas processing plant which will be the starting point for the 532-kilometre-long gas pipeline to Dar es Salaam via Somanga Fungu aimed at boosting power generation. It is estimated that the Mnazi Bay reserve stands at between 3 and 5 trillion cubic feet.
The pipeline is projected to transmit 420 million cubic feet a day. Its construction is expected to cost $1.058 trillion, which has been secured as a loan from Chinese Exim Bank. The current gas supplies used to generate 180 megawatts of power are from the Songosongo island in Kilwa district, Lindi region.
On the other hand, Prof Muhongo said a Brazilian company, Petrobras, had drilled one gas well towards the end of last year in block number 5 named Zeta-1 to the depth of 3,695 metres, but no gas or oil was discovered, though there were indicative signs. “Seven wells drilled in the deep sea resulted in the discovery of natural gas,” he affirmed.
He noted that the drilling at another well named Papa-1 was underway in block 3, adding that the work was expected to be completed next month.
He said exploration for oil and natural gas in the deep sea was costly, noting that a single well costs between $100 million and $150 million after establishing key statistics.
“It is important to ensure that this pace of exploration activities remains on course and the government will be encourage these company to carry on with the exploration,” he said.
Prof Muhongo said further that four wells were ready, including three at Songosongo island and one west of Mtwara region. He revealed that the well which was completed last May at Songosongo had a capacity of producing 60 million cubic feet a day.
The minister said by Thursday there were 19 companies involved in gas and oil exploration, adding that 28 licences had been issued to international companies except Antrim, whose exploration activities were confined to Zanzibar.