‘Oil, gas potential vastly unexplored’

20Nov 2021
Getrude Mbago
The Guardian
‘Oil, gas potential vastly unexplored’

OVER 50 per cent of Tanzania’s total surface area has potential for oil and gas, the Petroleum Upstream Regulatory Authority (PURA) has declared.

Charles Sangweni, the PURA acting director general, made this affirmation in a press conference, covering the sub-sector achievements in the 60 years of independence.

He said around 534,000km2 out of 945,000km2 have sedimentary basins which hold oil and gas potential, but require extensive exploration and trials, underlining that this could transform the sector and its place in in the country’s economy.

Sedimentary basins are of great economic importance as most of the world's natural gas and petroleum and all of its coal is found in sedimentary rock formations, the director noted.

PURA is currently implementing plans to invest heavily in research and marketing so as to attract more potential investors to the oil and gas sector, he said, elaborating that so far 96 oil wells were tried, 59 onshore and 37 offshore. About 44 wells were found to have natural gas, he asserted.

The government has a petroleum activity map where areas are divided into blocks having high probability for hydrocarbon potential, he stated, affirming that the agency is working to strengthen exploration efforts.

It also seeks to improve bidding procedures so as to attract other big firms with interest in upstream oil and gas activity, he stated.  “We still have a good number of sedimentary basins that are yet to be fully explored,” he emphasised.

PURA has so far signed 11 agreements with various investors, three of whom are conducting drills on the ground while eight others are still in exploration stage.

Upstream activity for oil and gas here started in 1952, with the first trial wells drilled in Mtwara, while in 1974 the first commercially viable natural gas finding was confirmed at SongoSongo, followed by Mnazi Bay in 1982.

The Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act of 1980 was used for most of this period, while the Petroleum Act 2015 sets out upstream activities like exploration to a tendering process, he explained.

“We have 114,000 square kilometres covering inland rift basins, found in the Rift Valley block. In the coastal and continental shelf basins (onshore and offshore including the islands of Zanzibar and Mafia) the zone covers 280,000 square kilometres. In the deep sea basins the zone covered by the country’s exclusive economic zone is spread over 140,000 square kilometres, he specified.

In order to ensure optimal participation of local firms in the petroleum value chain, the Petroleum Act, of 2015 (section 219 and 220) provide for consideration of goods and services supplied by Tanzanian entrepreneurs as well as training and employment of Tanzanians by companies engaged in exploration and drilling, he added.