Tanzania: With Gas Already in Its Bag Tanzania’s Rift System Set to Become Next Oil Frontier

Original Story by Chaby Barasa for Tanzania daily News

IF recent geological findings are anything to go by, the East African Rift System (EARS) is poised to become the next big thing for oil companies, more so Tanzania where there are numerous areas with the possibility of striking oil.

Thanks to onshore discovery of oil in Uganda’s Lake Albert and Northern Kenya, the EARS is tipped as the future hotbed of exploration in the region, whose success so far had been limited to gas, which is being harnessed for power in projects such as Tanzania’s Songo Songo.

Swala Oil and Gas Tanzania (latest entrant in the sector with part-Tanzania ownership), Chief Executive Officer, David Ridge, says the relevance of this is that Tanzania contains both the western arm and the eastern arm of the rift system in Lake Tanganyika and in Pangani/Eyasi.

“In addition, the ‘cracking’ that produced the Rift System was not an easy event and a number of smaller ‘cracks’ also appeared between the two main systems: Kilombero and Rukwa seem to be two such systems. “We therefore expect that the oil-prone geology that has been proven in Uganda and Kenya will continue into Tanzania.

We also know that there is other evidence that Tanzania has the working petroleum systems: for instance, oil seeps offshore, the Tundaua oil seep on Pemba Island and oil, seeps and tar balls in Lake Tanganyika,” says Mr. Ridge in an email to this newspaper. He says early explorers noted in what is today Lake Albert, the presence of oil seeps.

This observation remained unknown or ignored for years before oil explorers moved into Uganda and – in due course – discovered some four billion barrels of oil. GEO ExPro, a petroleum geoscience magazine, conducted a study recently and noted that the oil seeps in the rift lakes of Lake Tanganyika, Edward and Nyasa may indicate the presence of a similar rock involving the tertiary sections, as discovered recently at Lake Albert.

Commercial hydrocarbon quantities have now been established in the Ugandan part of the Albertine Graben where the government, together with the international oil companies operating in the country, has embarked on plans to commercialise the discoveries that have been made. This will be the first commercial oil production in the East African Rift system. Plans are underway to commercialise these reserves.

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