Tanzania signs deal with Shell, Equinor

WELCOME DEVELOPMENT This file photo shows Samia Suluhu Hassan inspecting a military parade in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on March 19, 2021. AFP PHOTO

DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA: Tanzania on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) signed a framework agreement with British and Norwegian energy giants Shell and Equinor toward implementing a $30-billion project to export its natural gas.

The deal foresees a final investment decision by 2025, and a start of operations by 2029-2030 at a liquefied natural gas plant to be built in the southern coastal town of Lindi.

It marks a significant step forward in Tanzania’s efforts to jumpstart the export of part of the vast gas deposits off its coast, estimated at more than 57 trillion cubic feet (1,630 billion cubic meters).

“We have never reached this stage of natural gas development in the history of our country,” Energy Minister January Makamba said during the signing ceremony in the capital Dodoma.

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“This project will significantly change our economy.”

“Tanzania’s geographical positioning makes it easy to transport the natural gas to other countries, especially Asian [ones], which are looking for new sources of energy.”

President Samia Suluhu Hassan, also present, welcomed the preliminary agreement.

“We have reached a good stage of discussions about the LNG project, but much work is still waiting for us to talk and make it competitive,” she said.

Plans for the LNG plant had stalled for several years under her predecessor John Magufuli, and she re-launched efforts after becoming head of state last year.

Equinor country manager for Tanzania, Unni Fjaer, said the deal had been long in the making.

“We had many stops but through resolve of the government, we kept engaging, discussions and we believe Tanzanian gas presents a huge opportunity,” she said.

Along with US firm ExxonMobil, Equinor is exploiting a block some 100 kilometers (60 miles) off the coast of Lindi, where it says it has found 20 trillion cubic feet (566 billion cubic meters) of natural gas.

Shell, together with Ophir Energy and the Pavilion Energy, says it has discovered 16 trillion cubic feet (453 billion cubic meters) of gas in two other offshore blocks in the same area.

Tanzania’s economy suffered a blow during the coronavirus pandemic, as travel restrictions battered the tourism sector, a key earner in the East African country.