Malawi Oil Prospects

By ChikuJere

Results from the on-going exploration for hydrocarbons that multinational firms are carrying out across Malawi have revealed encouraging preliminary prospects for the discovery of commercially viable petroleum and gas reserves.

Making a presentation titled “STATUS OF OIL AND GAS IN MALAWI AND OPPORTUNITIES” at the 2018 Alternative Mining Indaba that was held in Mangochi last month, AmiduMakwinja, an officer from the Mines Department’s Oil and Gas desk said that based on exploration results collected so far,    preliminary prospects for petroleum in the country are good and promising.

Makwinja explained that the outcome of geophysical and geological mapping exercises conducted by exploration companies in target areas such as Chitala and Mpatsanjoka in Salima, Dulombale and Golomoti in Dedza, Lake Malombe in Mangochi, Dwangwa in Nkhotakota and Vua in Karonga is positive.

“The likelihood of finding commercial petroleum discoveries in these potential sites is high with average values in the range of 16.8% – 20%, exceeding the typical international oil industry threshold of 10%,” he said.

The results have emanated from Phase I exploration work which has involved desk studies, airborne surveys, seismic surveys and data interpretation, geomapping for blocks on ground, and Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA).

The companies are now geared to move to Phase II which requires importation of drilling equipment to start preliminary drilling of exploration wells for determination of availability of hydrocarbons.

Assumptions are that the Oil and Gas reserves could be in the same range as those discovered in Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya since Malawi lies in the East African Rift Valley System.

Makwinja said if Malawi makes Oil and Gas discoveries in the same order of magnitude as comparator countries, potential oil revenue estimates can be many times more than the current export earnings.

The country is using a comparative analysis of economies which have recently discovered oil reserves within the African Great Rift Valley to analyze its hydrocarbon potential.

The revenues are estimated assuming a long term oil price of US$ 60 per barrel as World Bank anticipates that   all three major benchmark oil prices, Brent, West Texas Intermediate (WTI), and Dubai, will continue to increase after 2020 to reach $70 per barrel by 2030.

Currently, Malawi’s macro-economic environment over-depends on the rain-fed agricultural sector which has proven to be unreliable due to fluctuating weather pattern.

This has led government to embark on hunting for potential alternate and complementary economy drivers, by going on over-drive promoting other sectors such as the Extractives Industry.

Within the Extractives Industry, government aims to develop the Oil and Gas subsector into one of country’s complementary economic spinners if commercially viable discoveries are made hence the demarcating of oil    prospecting area into Six (6) Blocks and subsequent issuing of Exclusive Prospecting Licenses (EPL) to four multinational firms.

Block 1 was awarded to Efora Energy (formerly SacOil Holdings Limited), Block 2 and 3 to Hamra Oil, Block 4 and 5 to RAKGAS MB45, and Block 6 to Pacific Oil and Gas.

However, Efora and Pacific Oil and Gas have since relinquished their licences.

Environmental and Social Impact Assessment for Hamra Oil’s Blocks 2 and 3 were completed and approved by Malawi’s Environmental Experts in the Department for Environmental Affairs paving way for Phase 2 exploration which requires drilling of exploration wells.

Makwinja said it is imperative that on-going petroleum activities are supported on a sustainable basis to achieve successful oil and gas discoveries which he said if well managed, its economic impact is likely to accelerate economic growth and development thereby reducing poverty.

Presently, all Oil and Gas exploration operations are based onshore and government has pledged that modern environmental management practices and methods will be implemented to minimize and mitigate against any disturbances to the environment.

Until Malawi builds its own regulatory and financial    capacity, government says the first phase for petroleum operations will focus on onshore including along the lakeshore.

Meanwhile, the Department of Mines is reportedly at an advanced stage in the process of formulating a Petroleum Policy that will among other things address issues of good governance for upstream petroleum subsector, promote balanced fiscal regime, good revenue management, and environmental sustainability as well as maximise local content.

“Currently, the draft policy is still undergoing intra and inter-ministerial polishing to ensure consistency with other policies before approval and adoption,” Makwinja said, adding that with the help of international experts like Commonwealth Secretariat, the review aims to meet international standards.

The Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act of 1983 is also under review to reflect the current global petroleum issues.

Review meetings were conducted with several stakeholders and instructions from the meetings were submitted to the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs which is preparing the initial Petroleum Bill of the revised law.

Among other pertinent issues, the new law will put in place measures that will enable community members to take part in choosing kinds of projects befitting their areas as part of community development agreements.

The government has also partnered with the Exploration Companies in facilitating establishment of Oil and Gas courses at Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) and University of Malawi’s Polytechnic to enhance high human capacity and expertise in the petroleum subsector.

Malawi has already started benefiting from upstream petroleum activities having so far received significant developmental contribution both industrial and social since exploration companies were awarded the exploration licenses.

The benefits include supply of clean and safe water, interventions during disasters such as floods and supply of medicine and associated medical equipment.

The firms have also funded provision of sanitation and hygiene facilities such as toilets, construction of school blocks and provision of school material as well as promotion of sporting activities, which includes the establishment of Surestream Academy in Blantyre by UK prospector Surestream Petroleum.

Makwinja said government will continue putting more efforts to the current exploration activities until results are obtained on the status of petroleum resource potential in the country so that the country and its citizenry benefit from the imminent exploitation of the prized endowment.

“If Malawi can restrict exportation of Crude Oil and ensure refining of the same in the country, more jobs will be created, and it will make petroleum products readily available at a cheaper price,” he said.

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