Wood Mackenzie estimates that 100 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas has been discovered in Mozambique and Tanzania to date, ranking the Rovuma Basin as one of the most prolific conventional gas plays in the world.
However, there are significant technical and commercial challenges to be overcome in order to bring the gas to market by the end of this decade. These include: addressing issues around infrastructure, government capacity, financing and reaching a positive outcome to unitisation negotiations in Mozambique.
Recent discoveries and high profile M&A activity in Mozambique and Tanzania are attracting attention and Martin Kelly, Wood Mackenzie’s Head of Sub-Sahara Upstream Research, says the interest is justified: “100 tcf of gas has been discovered to date in East Africa and we estimate yet-to-find reserves could be as much as 80 tcf in Mozambique and 15 tcf in Tanzania. There is clearly plenty of gas to supply the likely commercialisation route of LNG – theoretically enough to support up to 16 LNG trains.
“The Rovuma basin is the most prolific in the region, and one of the hottest conventional gas plays in the world, with 85 tcf discovered so far. Globally in 2011, it yielded the third most hydrocarbons, and we expect it to top the list in 2012 if the first half of the year is anything to go by,” Kelly continues.
In neighbouring Tanzania, the targets are the northern extension of the Rovuma Basin and the Mafia Basin. Kelly says: “Tanzania has enjoyed considerable exploration success as well, but hasn’t discovered the same scale of reserves. The average discovery size is much smaller at around 2 tcf, compared to Mozambique which is over 7 tcf. Discoveries in Tanzania are also more spread out, so developing them will be more expensive than those in Mozambique because additional infrastructure will be required.”
One of the most immediate challenges for Mozambique, is the unitisation discussions which Wood Mackenzie understands have already begun. Kelly explains; “Of the 85 tcf of gas discovered to date in Mozambique, around half of it is thought to be one enormous field which is in communication across the block. Under Mozambican law, a unitisation agreement between the operating parties will be required.”
Although there is a risk that unitisation discussions could delay Final Investment Decision (FID) – the crucial last step before commercial development – and therefore LNG production, there are other discoveries which are wholly contained in Area 1 and Area 4 and therefore gas could come from these first.
Giles Farrer, Senior LNG research analyst for Wood Mackenzie comments: “Many challenges will need to be overcome prior to LNG project sanction. The region’s remoteness and lack of development present serious technical obstacles. There is virtually no existing skilled workforce and both Mozambique and Tanzania will have to build and establish deepwater ports capable of servicing the needs of the petroleum sector. On the commercial side, there is the question of government capacity – whether there is sufficient impetus and capability within the governments and national oil companies to advance the huge legislative, bureaucratic, customs and financial challenges that such a development would bring.
“The major outstanding milestone for Mozambique is the conclusion of a commercial framework agreement, which is in the process of being negotiated. It will determine how the LNG facility or facilities will be structured for the purpose of taxation and whether the Joint Ventures (JVs) will co-operate in the construction of a single, mega LNG facility, or pursue individual developments. One crucial advantage that the Tanzanian projects enjoy is that they have already negotiated commercial terms, prior to the announcement of their projects.”
Farrer continues: “Lastly there is the question of finance, we estimate that a two train greenfield development in the region is going to cost at least US$25 billion, and for some of the players involved financing their share of this sort of development cost will certainly prove challenging and could delay development.”
The joint analysis by Wood Mackenzie’s upstream and LNG research teams stresses that these challenges are not insurmountable. “They have been encountered and overcome in several countries before. The risk is that delays could lengthen development schedules and add to costs,” Farrer says in closing.