The Indian Ocean Island of Zanzibar plans to build a national geological data center, which will be used for storing petroleum and natural gas resource information.

This will be the first-ever facility since the islands began the oil and natural gas exploration process in 2017.The facility will be built at Fumba, 12kilometer South West of the Zanzibar Stone Town.

The Minister of Blue Economy and Fisheries, Suleiman Makame Ali, told the House of Representatives recently that the project that would be officiated next fiscal year.

He said the project will be implemented under Blue Economic Development Programme, adding that SH 11 billion has been allocated to implement various development projects including the construction of the facility.

Speaking at a three-day training on the oil and gas sector for civil society organizations and journalists organized by the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), the Director for Health and Safety from the Zanzibar Petroleum Regulatory Authority (ZPRA), Mwadini Makame Haji, said the data center is meant to house all the Isles geological data.

He said when completed the facility will store important oil and gas information which is currently stored at the facility owned by the Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC).

Data centers are one of the largest multibillion-dollar projects, with South Sudan building a similar facility located at Juba-Yei Road at a cost of more than US$4 million(more than Sh10 billion).

According to Mwadini, ZPRA in collaboration with RAK Gas, will undertake another phase of oil and gas exploration using 3D seismic survey “for purpose of promoting the area for petroleum exploration and development.

This is one of the most important techniques to help geologists and engineers to find out where possible hydrocarbon is thousands of feet below the earth surface.

Modern high-quality 3D seismic surveying is now able to provide high-definition images of sub-surface structures and this has proven to be highly successful in the discoveries offshore Mozambique and Tanzania Mainland.

Before Zanzibar Revolution of 1964, the petroleum exploration and production activities were operated under Mineral Oil Decree Cap 107 and Mining Decree Cap 108 of 1955 which declared that the ownership of mineral resources was vested in the Government. Its regulations prescribed licensing procedures and other associated matters. The establishment of the United Republic of Tanzania in 1964 and later establishment of TPDC in 1969 and the the Petroleum Exploration and Production Act of 1980,transferred Zanzibar’s role in oil and gas issues to jurisdiction of the Union. The petroleum Exploration and Production Act of 1980 empower Minister of Energy of Mainland to manage issue of oil and gas in Zanzibar but remain silent in the involvement of Zanzibar Authorities in this empowerment. Granted by the Zanzibar constitution, there exists a Minister responsible Energy in Zanzibar is supposed to be responsible for managing  oil and gas issues in Zanzibar.

In 1997, oil and gas exploration activities in Zanzibar were put on hold pending, further inter-governmental consultation regarding the process. This situation was compounded further by the Zanzibar House of Representatives Declaration in 2009 asking the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar to manage the issue of oil and gas activities in Zanzibar. This situation later was addressed to the URT and a high level discussion came into conclusion for preparation to be made for Zanzibar and Tanzania Main land to manage oil and gas issue separately on each part respectively.

State-owned RAK Gas, which supplies natural gas to the UAE’s northern emirates and Africa signed a production sharing agreement with Zanzibar.

The project is the African country’s “first-ever exploration project”, said RAK Gas co-chief executive Kamal Ataya, whose company signed the agreement to execute the scheme with the Zanzibar Government as well as the Zanzibar Petroleum Development Company.

The company signed the rights to explore and develop the Pemba Zanzibar block, which spans 11,868 square kilometers.

RAK Gas, which processes and supplies gas to the northern emirates, also has licenses to operate in Somaliland, Malawi and Egypt. Zanzibar, famous for its tropical beaches, is a semi-autonomous region of eastern African state of Tanzania, which depends largely on gas to meet its energy requirements. The country experiences a high rate of energy poverty, with an estimated 20 percent of the population living off the grid.

The oil and gas industry are divided unto three main segments of operations, namely the up-stream, mid-stream and down-stream. The mid-stream and down-stream deal with processing of produced crude oil and gas into value added products and their transportation, storage and marketing.

The up-stream component consists of matters of pre-licensing, licensing, exploration, appraisal, development, production and decommissioning. Sometimes transportation of the crude oil and gas becomes part of it. This is commonly called the value chain of the up-stream oil and gas industry. This segment is very important and complex in the sense that it takes a bigger part of the investment cost, risk, and high technologies. It also needs a very high interaction between stakeholders involving mostly international oil and gas companies or related to these. The possible licensing areas that will involve oil and gas up-stream activities in Zanzibar are mainly marine-based. This is the area which is also strategic for marine resources which are highly depended upon by the people of Zanzibar. The importance of regulating this segment is not only for maximizing revenues but also to handle it effectively to minimize or avoid the negative effects produced.

The East African history on oil and gas exploration is of about 6 decades of unsuccessful exploration until recently. Zanzibar lies in the Coastal Basin of East Africa where active hydrocarbon exploration activities are being conducted. The basins comprise of huge deposits of marine based sedimentary rocks of high hydrocarbons potential. Following the establishment of the Zanzibar Mineral oil Decree Cap 107 and Mining Decree Cap 108 of 1955, an exploration well was drilled on each of the two main Islands. The two wells, code named Zanzibar 1 and Pemba 5, were drilled by BP/Shell group based on surface geological surveys. Both wells indicated limited hydrocarbon shows at the time.

The hydrocarbon shows from these two drilled wells, the oil seep at Tandauwa and the calculated rock maturity index (vitrinite reflectance from 0.6-1.2). indicated signs that the source rocks within the area were mature hydrocarbons generation. In addition to the other boreholes drilled in the East African region, the two wells provided enormous geological and stratigraphic data. No further advancement in drilling was performed after the Zanzibar Revolution of 1964.

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