Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Tanzania's Lake Tanganyika North Block up for grabs

Lake Albert and Lake Tanganyika are recieving new attention from oil and gas companies
Source: Beach Energy

The Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC) issued a tender to the North Block of its share of Lake Tanganyika this week, and has set a deadline for submission of bids on 7th June.

Lake Tanganyika is shared between Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi and Zambia. Exploration in the lake has been limited until now, but as eastern Africa gets new attention thanks to finds both offshore and in the other lakes the Great Rift valley, Lake Tanganyika will likely become hot property.

The TPDC has divided its sections of the lake into two blocks. The southern portion has been held by Australia's Beach Energy since May 2008. The TPDC said it has received substantial interest in the northern block.

Burundi has divided its section of the lake into four blocks, two of which have been awarded to the UK's Surestream Petroleum. Surestream has been conducting an environmental impact assessment since late 2010 and is planning on shooting seismic on the lake in 2011. Burundi has not awarded the two other blocks, according to the Oil & Gas Journal.

Zambia, typically known for being a copper producer, is also turning its attention to oil. Last year it began to issue oil and gas exploration licenses to local and foreign companies. Exile Resources said in February that it had received an exploration license for a project in northeastern Zambia, although it does not appear that Zambia has licensed territory on the lake as of yet.

DRC has also been more active in recent years, particularly regarding its share of Lake Albert. It does not appear to have licensed any territory on Lake Tanganyika yet.

The interest in Lake Tanganyika has been spurred on by oil discoveries in the border region between Uganda and DRC in recent years. Many of the borders in this area have not be finalized, however, leading to potential disputes. In 2008 Uganda and DRC clashed over ownership of Lake Albert, and a Heritage Oil contractor was killed in the process. Kenya and Uganda also experienced disagreement over their shared Lake Victoria, in particular Migingo Island, a well-used base for fishermen.

No disputes have emerged in Lake Tanganyika yet, but as the borders between the four littoral countries have not be demarcated, potential for disputes exist. The lake is divided by a median line, but given that lake levels have dropped considerably in recent years, where that line lies needs to be fully established.

Sources: TPDC, Petroleum Africa, Oil and Gas Journal, Reuters

For more information, please see the Menas Borders website, here.

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