Tanzanians fret over untapped gas potential

Mtwara Gas Pipes

Mtwara Gas Pipes

Massive drops in hydro-power generation in Tanzania has largely left industrial and domestic energy consumers frustrated and worried.

But since Maurel and Prom (M&P) opened wells at Mnazi Bay gas field in 2006, delivering 2 out of 10mmscfd to Tanzania National Electric Supply Company (Tanesco)- Mtwara Unit, energy supply has in principal surpassed demands of the municipality with 1.3 million inhabitants.

Mtwara discovered gas in commercial quantities in 1982 and began commercial production in mid 2000s. Prior to production, the government’s expectation was to fix deteriorating power woes and speed-up industrial development, to this day, the expectations remain unmet.

Tanesco’s Mtwara unit capacity was to produce up to 18MW, but the demand was 12 megawatts leaving 6 megawatts unused nor connected to the national grid. The 6 megawatts can be used at a commercial level and generally enough to power more than 6,000 Tanzanian households.

“This is a major concern in the region and across the country,” The demand for power in the region has now reached 16 megawatts being fueled by recent offshore discovery of natural gas now standing at 47.08tcf,” said Tanesco Director General Felchesmi Mramba in an exclusive interview with Afrika Reporter.

Mramba said Tanesco will commission an additional 20 megawatts at the power-sub- station to meet the increasing demand for reliable energy. “We’re contracting Mantrac Tanzania co. to help stabilize and improve power reliability … we will have sufficient power for Mtwara,” he added

Mikindani Peter Khamis Jumaa, a resident of Mikindani area in Mtwara is worried about the increasing cost of living and limited job opportunities, but says investors should make good use of the available energy. He however, urged the government to channel the power surplus to public institutions in rural areas such as hospitals, dispensaries, courts and schools.

“This will only help improve the livelihood of the people of Mtwara who have been living with higher expectations of employments and industries since the discovery of mega natural gas reserves undersea,” he said.

Alfred Luanda, the Mtwara Regional Administrative Secretary (RAS) conceded Monday that the industrial sector’s performance is a major cause for concern in the gas-rich region.

Opening a ten-day media training on strengthening oversight in the extractive industry organized by Natural Resources Governance Institute (NRGI) and Environmental Journalists Association of Tanzania (JET), Luanda said the government is now working on a plan to set up various industries including a fertilizer factory.

Citing experience from other emerging economies, Luanda stated that the discovery of gas in most countries has moved far beyond electricity generation to industrial development. “We have to set up petrochemical industries … we’re planning to start with a fertilizer factory,” he said.

Economic analyst and University of Dar es Salaam Professor, Dr Henry Challu said there are more opportunities with reliable power given the fact that growth of the industrial sector helps to unlock other intra-dependent sectors and boost the area’s economy.

“As we move towards industrial economy, the government has to set all possible—friendly environments to attract investors,” he noted.