by Roger Nellist
Tanzania’s unexpected helium discovery
In June scientists from the UK (Oxford and Durham Universities) and Norway announced the discovery of a large reserve of helium gas in the geo-thermally active Tanzanian Rift Valley. Their study estimates a probable helium reserve of 54 billion cubic feet in just one part of the Rift Valley, enough to satisfy global consumption of the gas for nearly 7 years. This is an exciting find – described as a “game-changer” – since global helium supplies are running out and the price of helium has risen by 500% over the last 15 years. Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe but is exceedingly rare on earth. It is used in specialist applications like hospital MRI scanners, super magnets, particle accelerators, military equipment and spacecraft. The scientists believe there is enough helium in this one Rift Valley location to fill at least 1.2 million MRI scanners. The find is bound to intensify exploration efforts in the Rift Valley.
LNG plant discussions
Tanzania believes that the prolonged fall in oil and gas prices represents an opportunity (for gas-driven development), rather than a threat, and in June convened a meeting between the country’s gas discoverers – Statoil, Exxon Mobil, Ophir Energy, Shell and TPDC – to start framing possible commercial and technical terms to govern the planned onshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal at Lindi. The parties have yet to take a decision on the huge investment and those terms – to be defined in a Hosting Government Agreement (HGA) – will be a vital consideration influencing it. Government has allocated 19,000 hectares of land in Lindi for the LNG export terminal and its associated industrial infrastructure.
CGT due on Shell’s acquisition of BG Group
In February 2016 Shell acquired the BG Group (with assets valued at $55 billion) in the world’s biggest energy deal in a decade. Importantly, the deal gives Shell a majority stake in BG’s gas discovery blocks in southern Tanzania and hence a substantial interest in the planned LNG project. For Tanzania the deal offers access to Shell’s worldwide experience, technology, networks and markets for the country’s gas. However, the government and Shell are apparently now in dispute over the amount of capital gains tax (CGT) that should be paid on the sale of the BG Group’s Tanzanian assets. It is reported that the Tanzanian Revenue Authority (TRA) is seeking US$520 million in CGT, an amount that Shell rejects and it has appealed to the tax tribunal. Sensitive discussions are still ongoing but there is concern that a lengthy dispute could delay the LNG plant.
Uganda – Tanga oil pipeline
TPDC has announced that the company to be formed to raise funding, procure goods and services and then to operate the oil export pipeline between Kabale in Uganda and Tanga Port will be known as the Pipeline Company (PIPECO). The stakeholders in the pipeline are the governments of Tanzania and Uganda and the three companies that have made the oil discoveries in Uganda: Total (of France), Tullow Oil (of UK) and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation. Details of the likely pipeline costs, timing and throughput were given in TA114. Information subsequently released includes the pipe’s routing in Tanzania (it will pass through Kagera, Geita, Shinyanga, Tabora and Singida to Tanga), the expected funding arrangements (the stakeholders will provide 40% of the funding and PIPECO will raise 60% in loans) and that Uganda will be charged a transit fee of just over $12 for each barrel of crude transported. Contract negotiations are ongoing. A final investment decision is expected by mid-2017. Meanwhile, the Tanga Regional Commissioner has urged farmers to start planning the expansion of their fruit, vegetable and poultry production in anticipation of the increased demand that the pipeline construction and operation will generate.
KILAMCO fertiliser project resurrected
TPDC also announced a new joint venture between itself (holding a 20% stake) and three companies from Germany, Denmark and Pakistan to establish a gas-powered fertiliser manufacturing facility at Kilwa Masoko in Lindi Region. The plant will produce 3,850 tonnes daily for Tanzanian farmers and also for export. It will also create jobs in the region. TPDC has begun the process for compensating the small number of residents who have encroached on the 820-acre site that it has owned since 1989 – when plans for a similar KILAMCO project were first developed as the primary use for Songo Songo gas. (That project was shelved because of TPDC’s inability to raise enough equity finance and also because of concerns about the project’s long-term viability given the world surplus of fertiliser).
More CNG fuelling points in Dar
In a move to expand significantly the number of vehicles in Dar beyond the current 40 that are powered by compressed natural gas (CNG), TPDC will build five more CNG fuelling stations in the city. Presently there are only two CNG points, at Ubungo and at TPDC’s Mikocheni estate. CNG is much cheaper, cleaner and healthier than using petrol and diesel but the initial vehicle conversion cost is high.
Many more rural power connections
In June the World Bank approved a US$200 million soft loan to enable
2.5 million rural Tanzanian households to be connected to the national grid. The programme will also help increase the number of small renewable energy projects in rural areas, providing power to homes and businesses. In 2014 nationwide electricity connectivity was 36%. The government aims to increase this to 50% by 2025 and 75% by 2033.
Corporate tax payments by mining companies
A report by the Tanzania Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative covering 2013-2014 reveals that 13 big mining companies have not paid any corporate tax since they began mining operations in the country. The companies cite as reasons their accumulated losses resulting from high prior-year mining expenditures as well as tax holidays allowed under Mining Development Agreements. “No corporate tax has been paid because no corporate profits have been earned” said one company executive. They also say they have paid mining royalties and certain other mining taxes. However, President Magufuli has recently questioned why foreign mining companies who claim they have not made a profit for years are still hanging around an unprofitable mine. Perhaps things are changing, though. The Tanzania Mineral Audit Agency signals an improved scenario for 2015, with major mines having paid almost US$50 million in corporate tax. Under the Norwegian aid programme the government has benefited over the last three years from capacity-building support in the specialist areas of petroleum and mineral taxation. This has helped TRA reduce the declared losses of major mining companies.
Mixed news for small-scale miners
The Deputy Minister of Energy and Minerals, Medard Kalemani, told Parliament in Dodoma that his Ministry had opened offices in most regions of Tanzania so as to take its services closer to small-scale miners. He also said that such miners will benefit from TSh 6.8 billion in subsidies next financial year. Meanwhile, regional authorities in Geita have revoked 132 licenses of small-scale miners for failure to comply with mining laws (including non-payment of royalties) and have warned more may be revoked.