Details about technical and political responsibilities on oil exploration left government officials and lawmakers scratching heads as the explanations went fully science.
During a session, yesterday, lawmakers told government representatives to prepare a documentary that will help them understand better the Petroleum Exploration Bill so that discussion can proceed with concrete understanding of the exploration and extraction process.
The draft law, which is being reviewed by parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Environment, if enacted into law, will provide a regulatory framework for the development and management of upstream petroleum activities.
The chairperson of the committee, MP Gabriel Semasaka, said a video presentation was necessary before they could proceed to allow discussion from an informed perspective.
Meanwhile, while oil exploration should initially be done by the contracted investor after finds of major reserves, lawmakers asked for presence of a government technician to ensure regular monitoring of the entire process.
Article 34 of the Bill, which permits the flaring of the gas obtained on upper surface of a petroleum well, caused a heated debate on who should be consulted before burning of the gas and the inbound quantity to be blazed.
While the Bill states that only after obtaining a licence from the line ministry can a contracted investor go ahead and burn the gas, lawmakers questioned authorities on who may halt the flaring, should they look more dangerous.
“In case the investor decides to get rid of the gas, without minding about the consequences, since he is after petrol anyway, when should we know which type of gas to keep and which one to flare?” asked Marie Therese Murekatete, a member of the committee that is reviewing the bill.
The MP further said there is a need for the presence of a government officer on ground to check on the turns of sequence in the extractions and know when and how an imminent decision should be taken to avoid bureaucracy.
“Assume that the gas found is full of different chemical components that cannot be handled by the installed capacity of pipes, it poses danger and there would be a need to address the urgency timely without necessary having to engage a minister. There is a need to differentiate technical and political responsibilities,” added Semasaka.
Layer of gas
On the other hand, government officials maintained that the thin layer of the gas that is found normally at the surface of petroleum wells pause no danger at all but said they were open to discussion on having full-time presence throughout the process.
“But under normal circumstances, extraction equipment have capacity to test the pressure and components of whatever is being extracted and inform technicians on what to do next, there shouldn’t be any reasons to worry,” said Irenee Nizere, the director of petroleum exploration unit in Geology and Mines Department at Rwanda Natural Resources Authority.
The draft law comes as both government and legislators are working round the clock to have a legal framework in place before the process of exploration, extraction and production works, should ongoing feasibility studies confirm reserves of crude oil.
Should the exploration returns positive results, according to Evode Imena, the State Minister in charge of Mining, other legal instruments governing production, process, distribution and trade will be put in place.
The exploration for oil deposits is currently ongoing around the Kivu belt in the western part of the country.