Helium Gas Triggers Debate In Parliament

TANZANIA is sitting on 54.2 billion metric cubic feet of helium gas in Lake Rukwa, with possibilities of more reserves as exploration of the natural resource continues in many parts of the country, particularly inland lakes, the National Assembly heard. The confirmation was made in the August House by the Minister for Energy and Minerals, Professor Sospeter Muhongo when responding to a supplementary question by Kwela MP, Mr Ignas Malocha (CCM) who had inquired whether the country had deposit of gas. Available information on the internet indicate that the helium is used, among other things, as a cooling gas for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines used in medical facilities. It is also used as a protective gas for welding, an inert gas for controlled atmosphere manufacturing, a fugitive gas used for leak detection, and a low viscosity gas for pressurised breathing mixtures. The minister also hinted on the possibility of methane gas deposit in the country. Methane is used in industrial chemical processes and may be transported as a refrigerated liquid (liquefied natural gas, LNG). “Helium is found in shallow waters as opposed to methane which is mostly present in deep waters. Geophysical studies conducted by prominent higher learning institutions such as Oxford University have confirmed the possibility of helium and methane deposits in Tanzania,” he explained. Prof Muhongo explained that initial drilling have been conducted in Lake Rukwa which proved the presence of helium gas reserves, noting further that more drillings will be done in other inland lakes. Earlier, the Deputy Minister for Energy and Minerals, Dr Medard Kalemani, said the country has coal reserves totaling 80 million tons in which he admitted however that the resource is not utilised at present. The explanation by Dr Kalemani was prompted by a basic question by Geita Urban MP, Mr Constantine Kanyasu (CCM) who had decried over importation of coal and yet the country is endowed with huge deposits of the resource.

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