Although renewable energy sources such as solar photo voltaic and battery energy storage technologies are making huge strides with reduced costs, many still feel a mix of generational solutions is a necessity for Africa. In this case, gas can be a more realistic solution than other higher carbon emitting technologies such as coal, diesel and heavy furnace oil (HFO).
According to International Energy Agency (IEA), gas accounted for nearly half of the global increase in energy demand in 2018. IEA data shows that the United States, China, and large parts of Asia and Europe incorporated gas as a core component of their energy sources. As such, it seems fair to ask why should Africa, and specifically Tanzania, be left behind with its rich natural gas resources?
Tanzania has natural gas reserves of 57 trillion cubic feet which provide opportunities for the country to increase its use for power generation, fuel motor vehicles, domestic use and provide industries with alternative energy for their various mechanical processes. All these while ensuring the long-term economic and environmental sustainability of the projects.
Exploration of natural gas comes with socio-economic gains to the country, a key one being saving foreign currency expenditure on fuel imports to power industries. The use of natural gas has gained popularity in recent years due to its reduced negative environmental impacts and efficiency compared to fossil fuels which produce a lot of carbon dioxide which contaminates the earth.
Additionally, natural gas is particularly well-suited to energy-intensive adaptation technologies, such as the production of steel and concrete used in the construction of resilient infrastructure, desalination for expanded freshwater supply, and cold storage. Because of its versatility, natural gas has been used extensively in the industrial sector as a reliable and affordable energy source.
It is also worth noting that large thermal power infrastructure incur huge upfront capital investments. By contrast, gas turbine generation plants are more affordable and much easier to construct, thereby enabling investors and governments to make huge savings on costs compared to coal or geothermal plants-which require expensive capital, especially during the exploration stage. Natural gas plants also use technology which increases efficiency and reduces emissions than the traditional thermal plants.
In this regard, natural gas discovery has enabled Tanzania to reduce energy costs and has diversified the sector. For example, Songas uses gas to generate electricity supplying 180MW – approximately 20 percent of the country’s demand – to the national grid. According to Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation’s estimates, this has led to savings of more than 11trn/- to the economy since 2004 when Songas began operations.
The company is looking to continue complementing the efforts of the government to provide a sufficient and appropriate energy mix which the country needs to sustainably power its industrialization agenda.
To this end, the initiatives undertaken to extend the gas pipeline from Dar es Salaam to Bagamoyo acknowledges the increased need for the safe transport of natural gas and efficient delivery to the consumer. At a time when there is an increased demand for cost-effective energy for both domestic and commercial use, natural gas continues to provide an affordable and environmentally friendly alternative. This helps to provide reliable and affordable energy source for the country through a mix sources that enhance developmental activities as the economy turns industrial dominated.
The demand for gas has been projected to increase over the next decade with projected global consumption doubling by 2030 to the extent that it will most likely replace coal as the world`s second most important energy resource. Natural gas is an important resource for Tanzania and is one of the key options for energy benefitting the environment, communities and boosting government revenue.