The National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) has started offloading fuel into its Mzuzu strategic fuel reserves, three-weeks after reserves at Matindi, Blantyre became operational.
Nocma wants to store 4.5 million litres of fuel this month at the Mzuzu reserves, which have the capacity to keep 10 million litres.
The facilities were constructed with a $26 million (K19 billion) loan from the Exim Bank of India to ensure security of fuel supply in the country.
The delay to open the Mzuzu reserves was because they did not meet Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) safety standards.
Since last month, fuel tankers from Tanzania destined for Mzuzu have been seen parked at Bishop Total Filling Station.
Mera spokesperson Fitina Khonje said the problem has now been rectified and a decision was made on August 11 to issue a storage licence for the Mzuzu reserves.
“A decision was made last week after they [Nocma] satisfied all the requirements and they were granted a licence. That is why they are now offloading fuel into their tanks,” she said.
Khonje said the delay was mainly because Nocma applied the licence amid construction and the energy regulator was waiting for the construction works to finish.
Nocma public relations officer Terephorous Chigwenembe confirmed in an interview on Tuesday that the Mzuzu reserves did not do well in the first assessment on oil water separator—a mechanism that collects spilled oil and separates water from the oil—as oil is a health hazard and not supposed to spill outside the depot.
“Although we already had one [oil water separator], Mera wanted an extra one and we have since rectified the problem,” he said.
Chigwenembe said the Tanzania fuel tankers have been in the city for some time to cut on costs as it would have been costly to keep them in Lilongwe.
“We accepted to have the tankers in Mzuzu because we were confident that Mera would grant us the licence after rectifying the problem,” he said.
Blantyre and Lilongwe strategic fuel reserves have the capacity to store 25 milion litres each. n