MAPUTO– Mozambique’s State-owned National Hydrocarbon Company (ENH) has launched a public tender for the construction of a gas refinery.

Speaking to journalists after signing cooperation agreements with the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) here over the weekend, ENH Chairperson Omar Mitha said the tender was launched last month.

Mitha said the economic viability of such a refinery was still under study. Nonetheless, he seemed convinced that it would go ahead.

An obvious problem is that the natural gas from the huge reserves in the Rovuma Basin, off the coast of the northern province of Cabo Delgado, will not come ashore before 2022. but that did not worry Mitha.

He said that if the refinery is ready before the Rovuma Basin gas is piped ashore, Mozambique could import gas to be refined, and then sell it to neighbouring countries.

As for the agreements with CNPC, Mitha said they set up a joint Mozambique-China petroleum and gas co-operation committee, which will meet alternately in Maputo and Beijing.

For his part, the CNPC Deputy Chairperson, Hou Qijua, said Mozambique is a country with enormous development potential and one which has the foundations for growth in the petroleum industry.

ENH and CNPC are already partners in Rovuma Basin Area Four, where CNPC acquired an indirect participation via the Italian energy company ENI-East Africa.

ENI-East Africa holds 70 per cent of the Area Four concession. ENI-East Africa in turn is 35.7 per cent owned by ENI, 35.7 per cent by the American oil and gas giant ExxonMobil and 28.6 per cent by CNPC. The remaining 30 per cent of Area Four is held by ENH, Kogas of South Korea and Galp Energia of Portugal, each with a ten per cent stake.