Emerging Frontiers: Focus on East Africa
- Jeff Spath (2014 SPE President)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- October 2013
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 14 - 16
- 2013. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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Over the next year, I will use this monthly column to offer my thoughts on emerging frontiers—geographic as well as techno-logical. In some columns, I’ll take a look at the hottest new oil and gas regions around the world, state-of-the-art technologies that make it possible to succeed there, and the role that SPE is playing in the region. In other columns, I’ll consider a variety of broader, cutting-edge trends and developing technologies, such as big data and the evolving face of education, and the role they are playing within our industry as a whole and, more specifically, within SPE.
To kick off, consider one of the most dynamic oil and gas regions to emerge, quite unexpectedly, in recent years—east Africa, in particular Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda.
While exploration in this area dates back to 1904, recent massive natural gas discoveries by Anadarko, ENI, Statoil, and others have catapulted Mozambique and east Africa into the spotlight. Since 2010, for example, an estimated 100 Tcf of recoverable gas reserves have been discovered offshore Mozambique alone (US Energy Information Administration, 2013). Exploration success combined with greater political stability and reasonable commercial terms has brought an unprecedented surge of investors, operators, service companies, and associated vendors into the region.
One of the more significant challenges to supporting the influx of oil industry expatriates to east Africa is inadequate infrastructure in all of these countries, especially in Mozambique, which has had little to no investment following decades of civil war. With such a promising future, however, the number of hotels, restaurants, and international banks is growing daily. In a recent visit to Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, I heard people complaining about the novelty of traffic congestion—a sign of development. Nevertheless, the country has a long way to go. Despite being one of Africa’s fastest growing economies over the last decade, Mozambique still ranks 185 out of 186 on the United Nation’s 2012 Human Development Index—below Sudan and Afghanistan (United Nations Development Programme, 2012).
Local Talent Needed
Apart from infrastructure, perhaps the greatest hurdle in developing newly discovered gas resources is the scarcity of local engineering talent. Most students in east Africa leave the country or the continent to obtain degrees in oil and gas. As you can see from Fig. 1, there is a dearth of oil and gas universities in sub-Saharan Africa overall, and east Africa in particular. Yet these nations desperately need to train professionals in the oil and gas disciplines, especially petroleum engineering. As an example, Kenya’s Ministry of Higher Education noted that, following its first commercial discovery of oil in 2012, the country needs at least 30,000 engineers to realize its goal of becoming a middle-income economy by 2030 (Wanga, 2013). Imagine how many engineers the other countries in east Africa will need to achieve their potential.
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