DAR ES SALAAM, June 7 (Reuters) - Tanzania’s current natural gas reserves are at about 55 trillion cubic feet (tcf) following new deep sea discoveries off its southern coast, the east African nation’s energy minister said.
East Africa is a new hotspot in hydrocarbon exploration after substantial deposits of crude oil were found in Uganda and major gas reserves discovered in Tanzania and Mozambique.
“As a result of ongoing exploration activity, natural gas resources discovered in the country rose from 46.5 tcf in June 2014 to 55.08 tcf in April 2015, equivalent to an increase of 18 percent,” George Simbachawene, Tanzania’s energy and minerals minister, said in a presentation to parliament on Saturday.
Tanzania in October raised its estimate of recoverable natural gas resources to up to 53.2 tcf.
He said the government had lifted the natural gas resources estimate following new discoveries by Statoil, Exxon Mobil , BG Group and Ophir Energy.
Simbachawene said a pipeline connecting offshore natural gas fields to Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam would be commissioned in September, ahead of the energy ministry’s previous estimates of November.
“The commercial operational date of gas processing plants and the pipeline has now been set at September 2015,” he said.
The 532-km (330-mile) pipeline and gas processing plants, financed by a $1.225 billion Chinese loan, were initially expected to be completed last year but were delayed from going online due to technical setbacks.
The government said the pipeline would enable the country to switch to gas-fired power plants and reduce oil imports, hence leading to annual savings of over $1 billion.
Simbachawene said the government would invest in new gas-fired power plants to boost electricity supply in east Africa’s second-biggest economy, which has frequently been hit by chronic energy shortages.
“During 2015/16 the government will start implementing the construction of a 240-megawatt power plant that is expected to cost $344 million,” he said.
The minister said the government would also start work in 2015/16 on the construction of 1,148 km of a new 400 kV power line at a cost of $664 million in the north-west power grid.
“Another project involving the construction of a power transmission line in the north-east grid will be financed by a $693 million loan from China’s Exim Bank,” he said. (Reporting by Fumbuka Ng’wanakilala; Editing by George Obulutsa and David Evans)