Mmari: A geologist who believes right decisions reward handsomely

11Nov 2019
The Guardian
Mmari: A geologist who believes right decisions reward handsomely

OSCAR Mmari, is a confident petroleum geologist working with Shell Tanzania who says his decision to join BG Tanzania in 2014 (now Shell Tanzania), made for his many present successes in the oil and gas industry.

Mmari believes bold and timely decisions will always reward a person big success.


“As luck would have it,” Mmari recalls, “the company ran one of the best graduate programmes in the world. The programme, which ran for 2 years, strived to expose young employees to a myriad of oil and gas operations from around the world. I strongly believe that this early exposure to operations has bolstered my confidence and technical capability.”

Geologists in oil companies are part of a group of strategic workers.  Their job is to locate, drill and plan for safe evacuations of hydrocarbons, Oscar explains.

“The other crucial role for a geologist is to determine the amount of hydrocarbons that are found in the fields and how much can ultimately be recovered on the surface. This approximation is vital for any project execution because it informs the size of the facilities needed and the financial commitment that is affordable. There have been cases when geologists have underestimated the size of the hydrocarbons in the ground which resulted to failure to meet contractual obligation like gas delivery. To accomplish this intricate task, geologists make deliberate steps to ensure that the computer reservoir simulations, which are used for volumetric calculations, are benchmarked against known fields or analogues.”

 Mmari explains that when he joined the company, the company was in the middle of executing a monumental exploration campaign that led to the discovery of massive gas fields offshore Tanzania.

 Mmari, as part of his role as a geologist, he was involved with planning and drilling of Kamba-1 well which was a discovery. In order to take part in the drilling of the well, Oscar had to travel to Mtwara in a helicopter, then to the drillship that was anchored in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

He recalls his experience living and working in a big drillship.  And to his biggest shock, “it was surprisingly comfortable. The ship had world class amenities like swimming pool, gym and spacious accommodation. The crew was competent and friendly, and safety was always paramount. The operations worked like a Swiss clock. Every morning there was a team meeting to discuss the progress made the day before and discuss about the challenges for the day. Drilling continued day and night with shift changes every 12 hours.”

He enjoyed working with the drilling and mud-logging team because, he says, they worked with modern equipment. But the best time, Oscar recalls, was with the environmental watch team. That team was lean, made up of 2 biologists that were constantly on the alert for large sea animals like dolphins and whales.

BG merged with Royal Dutch Shell in the 2016 acquisition.

Shell, Mmari says has operations in several countries in the world.  But more importantly, he explains the company has opened more doors for the Tanzania Shell staff.

In addition, he says, during his brief time in Shell, he has worked in the United Kingdom, Nigeria and Russia. In Nigeria, Mmari worked with the Bonga team in Lagos striving to extend the life of the mature fields by drilling new wells to maintain the oil production. Working in Nigeria was an eye-opening experience for Mmari in many ways, he asserts.

Firstly, was the way oil and gas has changed fortunes of Nigeria. The price of energy is affordable even though not always readily available. Shell in Nigeria also hires thousands of people, technical and non-technical, providing vital jobs to the local economy. But the most impressive was contribution of local content in the development and daily operations of the asset. Nigerians, he says, are responsible for planning, developing and executing of expensive wells with little support from outside. Nigeria also operates an LNG plant like the one planned for Tanzania. It was encouraging to see another African country being in complete control of such an intricate project. “This gave me hope that Tanzania will also get there one day, even though we have some soul searching before that happens.”

Mmari says he is currently preparing for his next role with Shell USA in Houston. He is very excited about his next chapter of his career but also appreciative of how much Royal Dutch Shell has changed his life. “I joined the oil and gas industry to provide cheap and reliable energy to the world’s poor and Shell is making my dream come true.”

Tanzania is planning an LNG project to be established in Lindi Region and hopefully with enormous involvement of Shell. In Shell Tanzania, this country has a reservoir of indigenous emerging technical and non-technical skilled hands. It is high time this nation took a pause and considered how to make the most of this natural gift as it prepares to implement the massive Lindi gas project.

Mmari, young as he is, quips that some soul searching is required before Tanzania succeeds in implementing the planned project. That is not just a conjecture.  No!  It is a patriotic professional contribution.

There is a Kiswahili saying: Mwenye Macho haambiwi tazama! (Literal translation: ‘He who has eyes is not shown the obvious before his eyes.’

If Tanzania took unsolicited concerns and advices of her patriotic daughters and sons seriously, then she would never be at loss when implementing the proposed Lindi LNG project, intricate as it is.