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Natural gas puts East Africa on energy map

JOHANNESBURG--Massive offshore gas discoveries in East Africa are catapulting the region into a major player in the global energy arena, bringing billions in investment that could transform entire economies.

Off the pristine beaches of Africa's Indian Ocean coast, multinationals have struck gas — well upon well upon well.

Planned investments worth tens of billions exceed the gross domestic products of some host countries, which range from regional power Kenya to impoverished Mozambique.

East Africa's coastal region, stretching out to Seychelles holds 441.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. That's about 50 percent more than in Saudi Arabia.

“The gas discoveries offshore in Mozambique and Tanzania are large and world-class, with potential for more to come, including prospects for an oil leg,” said Duncan Clarke, CEO of oil consulting company Global Pacific.

“These finds will lead to LNG (liquefied natural gas) plants ... and will make the zone akin to the Northwest Shelf in Australia,” which can produce 23 billion cubic meters a year, he told AFP.

Houston-based Anadarko in June announced new finds in northern Mozambique which brought its estimated recoverable resources to up to 60 trillion cubic feet.

The company has proposed US$15 billion in investments to set up LNG facilities. Mozambique's GDP last year was US$12 billion.

Thailand's PTT Exploration and Production in May announced a US$1.9-billion deal to buy Cove Energy, whose 8.5-percent stake in the Mozambican fields is currently up for sale.

Two weeks earlier Italy's ENI, the other large operator in the country's Rovuma basin, said recent discoveries boosted its recoverable resources up to 52 trillion cubic feet.

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