Written by MARCEL CHIMWALA
Three more oil exploration blocks are yet to be awarded to prospecting companies in Lake Malawi, following the award of Block 1 to South African company SacOil last month.
The Malawi government, which is seeking firms to explore for hydrocarbons in Lake Malawi, has divided the lake into six blocks and initially awarded UK company Surestream Petroleum blocks 2 and 3, which leaves blocks 4, 5 and 6 still up for grabs.
Mines Minister John Bande says the Malawi government is fast-tracking the awarding of the oil exploration licences because the oil exploration subsector is central to government efforts to ensure substantial economic growth.
“We expect the companies that are being awarded oil exploration licences to start work immediately and our duty as government will be to monitor the process to ensure that the interests of Malawians are protected as the companies carry out their activities,” says Bande.
The Malawi government advertised for oil exploration licences in 2010 and six companies, including Surestream, Sankara, Ophir, SacOil, Tullow Oil and Lonrho, sent in their applications.
After an evaluation process, the government oil exploration licence technical committee shortlisted Surestream and SacOil for the licences.
Surestream has kick-started its exploration work with an environmental- and social-impact assessment study, which is being undertaken by RPS Group, a specialist petroleum industry environmental consultancy.
Meanwhile, as part of its social responsibility programme, Surestream Petroleum has opened a football academy in Malawi’s commercial capital, Blantyre.
Surestream CEO Christopher Pitman says the launch of the academy has opened a new chapter in the development of football in Malawi because football academies worldwide have proved to be crucial in talent identification and development.
“It is my personal dream to develop the future of Malawi football by giving young and talented players a chance to reach out for their dream. “I hope that, in ten years’ time, products of the Surestream Academy will be able to play in elite leagues, such as the English Premier League and the Spanish La Liga,” he says.
For its part, SacOil, which is the latest to be awarded an oil exploration licence, has pledged to invest $2-million in its initial four years in Malawi when it will be involved in desktop studies and the acquisition of gravity and magnetic data in order to evaluate the petroleum potential of the 12 265 km2 block.
“We are delighted at the award of the licence. It represents our firm commitment to growing our asset base on the African continent and drive shareholder value. This is in line with SacOil’s strategy of building and developing a uniquely African portfolio. “In addition, it gives effect to our drive to unlock underexplored regions in Africa,” says SacOil CEO Robin Vela.