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Green yardstick for oil exploration firms

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 11 – Companies intending to invest in oil and gas exploration activities in the East African region have been urged to strictly adhere to environmental and social impact requirements.

President Mwai Kibaki said requirements for exploration should be in tandem with best international practice in the upstream petroleum industry.

He said that potential drilling companies should maintain a balance between profit maximisation and environmental preservation, especially because environmental sustainability is a prerequisite in socio-economic transformation and development agenda.

In a speech read on his behalf by Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, during the official opening of the Fourth East African Petroleum Conference in Mombasa, the President emphasised on the need to train more experts in all critical disciplines, including and petroleum engineering.

"I encourage you people to consider pursuing careers in petroleum exploration fields," he said.

The conference, which is set to end on Friday, and whose theme is enhancing exploration and exploitation of oil and gas for social and economic development, has attracted over 600 delegates drawn from Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya.

"As a region, we need to introduce modalities for training top scientists, engineers, lawyers and economists specialising in the petroleum industry, so as to enhance the domestic value-chain of any commercial discoveries," said the President.

He observed that drilling campaigns for oil exploration in Uganda and Tanzania have yielded positive results. While data available for the Burundi Basin indicate that thick sedimentary coverage is conducive for petroleum generation.

"The petroleum discoveries in Uganda have heightened the confidence in prospects of the Burundi and Rwanda sedimentary basins that lie in the same western arm of the East African Rift System," said the President.

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Among the critical aspects up for debate in the conference are natural gas development, petroleum revenue management in the East Africa rift basin system and onshore and offshore opportunities regionally.

Policy issues like the existing legal framework and fiscal regions that govern regional petroleum operations will also be discussed at the conference.

Oil and gas exploration is active both onshore and offshore in the country, with the government having signed production sharing contracts with international oil companies for 19 out of the country’s 38 acreage blocks.

Rwandan prospects are notable given the county’s estimates that methane gas potential at Lake Kivu is equivalent to 40 million tonnes of oil, and can generate energy for 700 megawatts from a plant running rate of a billion cubic metres of methane per year.

If fully exploited, Rwanda has the potential to export energy to other African states. Already, Burundi has begun exploration on Lake Tanganyika basins.

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