Hamra Oil Holdings Limited has offered scholarships to 10 Malawians to study oil and gas engineering in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) so that should Malawi discover the hydrocarbons the country must have its own experts to participate in the industry.
According to Hamra, the investment in the 10 Malawians is in response to acute capacity gaps locally in the potentially new field of oil and gas. The students left Malawi for their respective universities a few weeks ago.
Hamra Oil is the company that has partnered British firm—Surestream Petroleum Limited—to explore oil and gas in Malawi in blocks Two and Three whose licence is held by Surestream.
In a statement, Hamra explained that since oil and gas is a new industry, it is important that the company takes the responsibility of training Malawians to put the country at an advantage when dealing with investments in the area.
Blocks Two and Three cover on-shore and offshore areas in the districts of Karonga, Rumphi, Nkhata Bay and Nkhotakota.
The Malawi Government awarded the two blocks to Surestream in September 2011 pursuant to the provision of the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act.
Surestream later sold 51 percent of its shareholding of the blocks to Hamra Oil.
Documents from Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mines that The Nation has seen show that Surestream sought government approval to partner with Hamra. The ministry endorsed the deal in February 2014.
Hamra recently launched prospecting operations using a full tensor gravity gradiometry (FTG) survey.
The survey is being acquired using an airplane that is flying over the two blocks.
The exercise will have little, if any, environmental impact.
The FTG comes after Hamra Oil—in collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mines, the Environmental Affairs Department and the Department of Civil Aviation—last month briefed local leaders in the four councils about the exercise.
During one such sensitisation meeting in Karonga, Paramount Chief Kyungu welcomed the exploration activities.
“We need our children to be employed, we need development and people need to see their lives transforming,” he said.
According to Hamra, even if oil were found today, extraction would be several years away.
In Karonga, concerned citizens have established a task force to denounce some quarters that are agitating for violence over oil exploration.
Chagunyuka Mhango, chairperson of the task force, who also heads the Karonga Business Association, condemned those he described as “alarmists”.
Mhango said it is too early for people to start making unnecessary noises that would lead to violence and destruction of other people’s property.
Chairperson of the jobless community in Karonga, Waleke Maholo and butchers’ grouping leader Peter Ngwire Viyuyi, observed that some quarters are using the issue of oil exploration to make themselves important so that they can benefit financially.
A Karonga concerned citizen, Campbell Kaponda, wondered why some people are failing to comprehend that it is Government of Malawi that issued the exploration and aviation licences to the company exploring oil in Lake Malawi.