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Gas pipelines provides frontiers for Tanzanian economy

IMPLEMENTATION of the 542-kilometre natural gas pipeline from Mnazi Bay, Madimba village in Mtwara to Dar es Salaam stands out as among mega flagship development projects to be undertaken by the government of Tanzania after independence in 1961.

Construction work for the pipeline began in June 2013 and was completed in towards the end of 2015 under the supervision of the Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC). The National Oil Company marks its 5oth Anniversary this year since it was established in 1969.

Given abundant reserves of natural gas amounting to 57 trillion cubic feet in southern regions of Mtwara and Lindi, the government of Tanzania sought a concessional loan of US 1.225 billion dollars (approximately 2.7trl/-) from the Exim Bank of China to undertake the project.

Tanzania has been exploring natural gas for more than 50 years in which the first natural gas discovery in the country was made in 1974 on the Songo Songo Island (Lindi Region) followed by a second discovery at the Mnazi Bay (Mtwara Region) in 1982.

Natural gas was discovered both offshore and onshore. The natural gas from Songo Songo was first commercialized in 2004 and the gas from Mnazi Bay in 2006. It was thus important to transport the energy to the country’s commercial capital of Dar es Salaam.

Construction contract for the Mtwara-Dar es Salaam gas pipeline was undertaken by China Petroleum and Technology Development Company (CPTDC), a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Company (CNPC).

TPDC on it part invested US 274.5 million dollars (about 603.9bn/-) into the project. The funds were used to among others compensate villagers along the route for creating of a leeway for the pipeline.

The Acting Managing Director of TPDC, Engineer Kapulya Musomba, is highly optimistic that the pipeline will provide a relief in transporting natural gas for power generation, fueling motor vehicles as well as domestic use and providing industries with alternative energy for heating and boiling.

With proven gas reserves of more than 57 trillion cubic feet (tcf), Engineer Musomba pointed out that the gas pipeline provides immense opportunities for power generation and investments along the route.

Engineer Musomba as well as Engineer Balthazar Mroso who is the Acting Managing Director of Gas Company Tanzania (GASCO), are among local engineers who fully participated in execution of the mega project.

An expatriate with Worley Parsons and Energy, Mr Allan Slowe, pointed that proper and regular maintenance of the conduit will expand its lifespan from 30 to 90 years. Worley Parsons is an Australian firm which was the consulting engineer for the pipeline.

 “The 30-year provision is a contractual obligation but this period can be extended to 90 years with proper and regular maintenance,” Mr Slowe said in Dar es Salaam during a meeting to brief stakeholders on implementation of the project.

The expatriate noted on the other hand that no incident had been recorded since the pipeline started transporting natural gas from Mtwara to Dar es Salaam in the year 2015.

“There hasn’t been any report of gas leaking or malfunctioning and this tells that the construction work was well implemented,” Mr Slowe, who worked as Project Manager for the consulting firm, remarked.

Eng. Musomba said the corporation has been conducting weekly physical inspections along the pipeline.

“Maintenance and regular inspections are crucial to have the pipeline running; every week a team of experts from TPDC makes close inspections of the infrastructure,” he remarked.

The pipeline starts in Madimba Village, in Mtwara Region, in southeastern Tanzania and runs in a northerly direction, through Somanga, in Lindi Region, to end at Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's largest city, a total distance of approximately 542 kilometres.

As of October 2015, Tanzania's total electricity generation capacity stood at 1,500 megawatts (MW).  In 2014, hydro-power generation represented 33 per cent of total capacity. However, due to prolonged drought, hydro turned out to be an unreliable power source for the country.

In order to diversify the national energy pool and to take advantage of the vast natural gas resources onshore and offshore in the Mtwara and Lindi regions, a natural gas pipeline was designed and constructed, to deliver the natural gas to Dar es Salaam.

The main pipeline from Madimba in Mtwara Region, to Dar es Salaam, measures 36 inches (91 cm) in diameter. At Somanga, in Lindi Region the main pipeline is joined by a smaller 24 inches (61 cm) pipeline delivering natural gas from Songo Songo Island.

Processing plants, one in Madimba and the other in Songo Songo are two trains (processing units) each and together are capable of processing 350,000,000 cubic feet of natural gas per day.The gas from Mtwara is used to produce power at Kinyerezi Power Plants.

Discovery of natural gas in Tanzania dates back to 1974 when AGIP, now a subsidiary of Italian oil and gas multinational Eni SpA, discovered gas at Songo-Songo Island, 15 kilometres from the mainland and 200 kilometres from Dar es Salaam.

The project serves two onshore and three offshore natural gas wells at the island, the gas from the wells being piped to a plant on the island.

The gas processing plant and pipelines were built and are owned by Songas Ltd, a local joint venture company formed by power company CDC Globeleq (itself formed by CDC Group), Tanzania Electric Company (Tanesco) and TPDC.

 CDC Globeleq has the controlling interest in the project, and the gas plant and wells are operated on its behalf by PanAfrican Energy Tanzania Ltd, a local subsidiary of Orca Exploration Group Inc.

Construction of the Songo Songo-Dar es Salaam conduit, the first pipeline network in Tanzania, was completed in May 2004 after which commercial operation started in July, the same year.

The network transports natural gas to Dar es Salaam where it is used as the principal fuel for turbine generators at Songas Ubungo power plant in Dar es Salaam to generate about 190MW of electricityfor the national grid.

A proportion of the gas also supplies a local cement plant, Tanzania Portland Cement Company Limited (commonly known as Twiga cement) at Wazo Hill, as well as a number of other industries and power plants in Dar es Salaam.

Ends

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Author: ALVAR MWAKYUSA

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