Malawi now seeks permission to import natural gas from Tanzania

15Feb 2018
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Malawi now seeks permission to import natural gas from Tanzania
  • The two countries are also set to discuss collective efforts towards developing the Songwe River Basin for different uses of mutual benefit, including power generation

MALAWI has expressed interest to start importing natural gas from Tanzania in a bid to boost its own power generation capacity.

Tanzania’s Minister for Energy, Medard Kalemani

Tanzania’s Minister for Energy, Medard Kalemani, said in Dar es Salaam yesterday after a meeting with a high-profile Malawian delegation led by his ministerial counterpart that the government was ready to consider the request in the name of maintaining good relations with the neighbouring country.

Kalemani said the two countries are also set to discuss collective efforts towards developing the Songwe River Basin for different uses of mutual benefit to both nations, including power generation.

The Malawian delegation was led by the country’s Minister for Natural Resources, Energy and Minerals, Aggrey Masi, and also included Malawi’s Minister of Industries, Trade and Tourism, Henry Mussa.

Masi said his country is in need of reliable electricity and has been struggling to address this challenge.

Currently Malawi produces 140 megawatts of electricity, against a population of 17 million, which translates into a high demand for power vis-a-vis a growing population.

According to Masi, Malawi’s traditional reliance on hydropower has of late been hard-hit by climate change, this forcing the country to turn to Tanzania as the only remaining realistic hope of providing an immediately affordable power solution.

He said an investor has been found to build a plant where natural gas can be processed into electricity. The idea is for the plant to be located in Kalonga area, close to the Malawi-Tanzania border post of Kasumulu, he explained.

Kalemani said the idea sounds good and needs to be further discussed from a technical point of view.

“We (Tanzania) are ready to work on the request, though this needs more explanation from the experts,” he remarked.

He said the technical experts need to consider three things; amount of natural gas, policy, and means of transporting the gas to Kalonga.

Kalemani told the Malawian delegation to come up with a formal write-up on their proposal to aid further discussions on the matter.

According to the available data, Tanzania’s natural gas annual production increased from 5.2 billion cubic feet (bcf) in 2006 to 35.1 bcf in 2013.

During the same period, gas consumption per capita in the country rose from 0 to 571 cubic feet.

Midstream and downstream natural gas activities in Tanzania are being carried out by four companies: the Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC), Songas, Pan African Energy Tanzania (PAET), and Maurel & Prom (M&P).

Songas generates electricity using gas from the Songo Songo Island fields. This gas is processed at Songas’ processing facility on the island, and then transported to Dar es Salaam to supply Songas’ Ubungo Power Plant (UPP) - the largest gas-fired power station in East Africa.

The ministers also agreed to await a report from the Songwe River Basin Development Programme (SRBDP), which is made up of the two countries, and thereafter come up with a roadmap for a mutually-beneficial joint power generation project.

The $829 million SRBDP - a transboundary programme – was set up to generate economic, social, environmental, and livelihood benefits for residents of the Songwe Basin, including enhancing food and energy security and boosting economic growth along the border between the two countries.

It also seeks to develop a multipurpose dam, expected to supply up to 180 megawatts of hydropower, and provide water for an irrigation scheme covering about 3,000 hectares in each country.

Two small towns with a total population of roughly 86,000 inhabitants and some 36 neighbouring villages will be provided with water through this programme. Other components of the programme include rural electrification, social infrastructure, and institutional capacity building.

Tanzania and Malawi have been engaged in tricky negotiations over the past year or so regarding the correct national border demarcations on Lake Nyasa, which they share along with Mozambique.

The lake – Africa’s third-largest - is believed to be potentially rich in both oil and gas. Malawi disputes Tanzania’s right to half the lake, while Tanzania argues that like the Malawi-Mozambique border, the border should remain in the waters and not on Tanzania’s shores as Malawi wishes.

Although the dispute remains officially unresolved, there have been reports that Malawi has already unilaterally awarded exploration licenses to some international firms to search for oil on the Tanzanian side of the lake.