Last updateLun, 26 Jan 2015 8pm

Gas: Shaping future for local gas experts

There is something interesting that I discovered when I visited Arthit gas and condensate field in Thailand late last year. This field located 230 kilometres offshore of Thailand's Songkhla Province was being supervised by just a 40-year-old young man Mr Supot Lertsakulsup, a Thai.

Over 80 per cent of the workers in that place were also Thai nationals. As the Field Production Superintendent of this company which operates in the area that covers 4,185km² across five concession blocks, Mr Lertsakulsup said that the field which is generally managed by Thais was developed with an investment of 1.4 billion US dollars and now it was generating huge profits for that country.

He added that PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP), the operator of the field which is government owned firm holds 80 per cent interest shares. He mentioned other partners as Chevron Thailand (16 per cent) and Mitsui Oil Exploration Company (MOECO) Thailand (4 per cent).

It is in the advent of this experience from Thailand that made me think what Tanzania was currently doing to make sure that more Tanzanians are engaged in gas extraction, to make the country generate profit, as well as create employment for its citizens.

Tanzania Gas Policy which was adopted recently insists that the discovered gas should benefit more Tanzanians and make sure that life becomes easier and affordable to all.

The Minister for Energy and Minerals Prof Sospeter Muhongo is convinced that come the year 2025, Tanzania will no longer be called a poor country, because the country's economy will by then be flourishing.

He insists that right education to energy and minerals will make the country produce more qualified personnel to be employed in the gas sector.

For example, the University of Dodoma (UDOM) will in June this year produce graduates in the oil sector, a move that makes it the first university in the country to produce such experts.

UDOM Vice Chancellor Prof Idrissa Kikula says that the training goes alongside the gas sector because the programme is related to those vital sectors.

"We began this programme in 2010 and we were the first university to introduce such a programme in Tanzania after huge discovery of gas in the south and oil prospects currently under exploration in Tanga" he says.

According to Prof Kikula, the academic year ends in June this year, but the students will officially graduate in November.

Commenting on the programme, UDOM Dean of the School of Mines and Petroleum Engineering Dr Justin Ntalikwa says that the programme began with 17 students.

All of them are expected to graduate this year. "We are confidently sure that these graduates have learned a lot about oil and gas and they can be employed by the foreign companies interested in oil and gas exploration" he adds.

The four-year programme includes eight weeks of theory (Learning in classrooms) and 30 weeks of practice every year. "We hope to make this programme sustainable to the extent of enrolling new students every year so that the country gets enough experts in oil and gas in coming future.

We have competent lecturers trained inside and outside the country and we are confidently sure that they are competent enough" he said. Recently, a local company known as BG Tanzania created partnership with the British Council to launch an international programme offering scholarships to Tanzanian graduates to study for Science Masters degrees in the United Kingdom universities.

The scholarships provide opportunities for 10 Tanzanians each year to study in the UK and to become part of the future work force in the country's oil and gas sector. "One of the many ways the oil and gas industry can have a positive impact on the people of Tanzania is through employment.

BG Group's preference, wherever we operate in the world, is to employ skilled people from the communities in which we operate" he said.

He added that initiatives like the international scholarship programme are crucial to maximising local employment, not only with BG Group but across Tanzania's growing oil and gas sector," Derek Hudson, the BG Group President and Asset General Manager - East Africa, says.

The statement added that a range of courses relevant to the sector are available under the programme at three UK universities; Imperial College London, Aberdeen University and Robert Gordon University.

The scholarships, funded by BG Tanzania and administered in partnership with the British Council, cover the cost of academic fees, travel, living expenses and pastoral support while the graduates are in the UK.

Successful candidates will be provided support when applying for a visa. Mr Hudson said the international scholarship programme is one of several investments by BG Tanzania to improve the livelihoods of Tanzanians, complementing initiatives in secondary education and vocational education training.

Richard Sunderland, the British Council's Country Director said that by building expertise in the oil and gas sector, his company will help Tanzania to secure the maximum benefits from an industry that has the potential to bring positive change to the country.

Our work with partners such as BG Tanzania is core to our capacity and skills development remit to build trust and understanding between Tanzania and the UK.

The scheme will help young Tanzanians to contribute to building a successful future for their country." He added.

By Deogratias Mushi

Tanzania Daily News/29/01/2014