National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) says it has started receiving fuel to test the country’s 60 million-litre strategic fuel reserves which government constructed in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu to provide more than two months of fuel cover.
Nocma communications officer Telephorus Chigwenembe said in an interview the testing of the tanks follows completion of the installation of offloading meters to be used in determining quantities of fuel received at the depots.
He said the offloading meters were a requirement by the regulatory regime but were omitted in the initial design of the fuel storage facilities.
Currently, Malawi has only 15 days of fuel cover, according to Chigwenembe, a development he described as a risk to the economy in the event of disruptions in the fuel supply chain system.
He said the Lilongwe depot located at Kanengo Industrial Area is scheduled to be operational by July 1 2016 while full operations at Blantyre and Mzuzu depots are expected to start by January 2017.
“The tank testing exercise with fuel starts with Lilongwe depot which has a 25-million litre fuel storage capacity, before moving to Blantyre mid-June to test another 25-million litre facility.
“Tanks at Mzuzu depot which will hold 10 million litres of fuel will be tested in July,” said Chigwenembe.
Meanwhile, Nocma is in the process of upgrading the roads to the fuel reserves for easy access to the facilities.
The installation of offloading meters and other ancillary works such as the upgrading of access roads to the three depots is said to have delayed the commissioning of the depots in 2015.
“The upgrading of a half-kilometre road to Lilongwe depot has been completed. In Mzuzu, upgrading of a 4.1-kilometre access road to the depot at Sonda started a few weeks ago and will be completed in August this year.
“The upgrading of a 3.2-kilometre access road to Blantyre depot at Matindi has also started and is scheduled for completion in September this year,” said Chigwenembe.
The three fuel storage facilities were constructed using a line of credit from Exim Bank of India worth about $26.5 million (about K19 billion) to guarantee security of fuel supply to keep the economy running for two and a half months.
Malawi imports fuel through Beira and Nacala in Mozambique and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.
Government-owned Nocma is mandated to manage the country’s strategic fuel reserves, promote competition in the oil and gas industry and promote oil and gas exploration activities to ensure stability and security of supply of liquid fuel and gas products.