Oil exploration laws in the pipeline

Rwanda could have a law governing its upstream petroleum business by mid-next year if everything goes according to plan, officials at the Rwanda Natural Resources Authority have revealed.
A fuel pump attendant fills a car. Prospecting oil in the country will be a major step in boosting the country’s oil sector.   The New Times/ File.
A fuel pump attendant fills a car. Prospecting oil in the country will be a major step in boosting the country’s oil sector. The New Times/ File.

Rwanda could have a law governing its upstream petroleum business by mid-next year if everything goes according to plan, officials at the Rwanda Natural Resources Authority have revealed.

The business consist prospecting underground or underwater oil reserves for their potential drilling and operation to recover and bring the crude oil to the surface.

It has been of interest after initial exploration works in Lake Kivu indicated a sedimentary basin in some parts of the lake that has the potential for petroleum presence.

The head of Mines and Geology at the Rwanda Natural Resources Authority, Dr Michael Biryabarema, told The New Times, yesterday, that they are aiming at having the law to regulate the business “as soon as possible”.

“We should be very optimistic that within this fiscal year the law should be out,” he said in an interview.

A cabinet meeting in June approved the country’s upstream petroleum policy, the first of its kind in Rwanda, to set up priorities and the institutional and legal requirements that will govern the oil exploration sector.

The upstream petroleum draft law has since been under preparation at the Ministry of Natural Resources (Minirena) as it is stipulated in the new oil exploration policy.

A petroleum sharing contract that government has been using for its contractual paperwork with companies involved in oil prospecting in Rwanda will also be revised to take out some of the basic instructions that will be stated in the new law.

Components in law

They include principles such as ensuring that environment will be protected during oil exploration activities and the principle that government shall not invest its own money in exploration works, but remain with the role of providing proper incentives for private investors to take on the risky exploratory business.

The upstream petroleum law will also provide a system of licensing for companies, detail the petroleum sharing principle, and strengthen the regulatory framework for quality assurance.

Setting pace for investors

Dr Biryabarema said both the policy and the law governing upstream petroleum business are likely to open up Rwanda to more serious investors in the business.

“There are people who may not come in when you don’t have a long term legal framework,” he said.

Hope for oil discovery in Rwanda’s Lake Kivu has remained steady because the northern and central parts of the lake in the country’s Western Province are believed to be an extension of the Albertine Graben in Uganda where Heritage and Tullow companies have discovered billions of barrels of oil reserves.

“The existence of long chain hydrocarbons in the Lake Kivu waters has all along indicated the possible presence of active oil generation and accumulation in East Kivu Graben,” says Canada-based Vanoil company, which has conducted oil exploration works in Lake Kivu.

At the end of the company’s exploration agreement with the Government of Rwanda last month, Vanoil confirmed that there is a sedimentary basin in Lake Kivu which can be considered as a potential for petroleum exploration.

But the company did not pinpoint where the next explorers can initiate drilling operations for the next stage of the oil exploration.

Dr Biryabarema said government will welcome any other committed investors to continue with the exploration.

Experts at Rwanda Natural Resources Authority say that the next step would be about studying the structure of the basin in order to ascertain where exactly the drilling would be tried.

“We see conditions which encourage us to go on with exploration. We have hope but we can’t say that we have petroleum, we are looking into how to move forward,” Dr Biryabarema said.

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