The new pipeline is expected to receive 6.5 million litres of fuel from the Tanzania-Zambia Mafuta pipeline, built 54 years ago. Analysts say the cost of fuel will reduce when the new pipeline becomes operational.
Zambia’s heavy reliance on fuel is clearly evident on any given day, as thousands of wheels criss-cross the country’s busy roads.
But Zambia does not produce its own crude oil. It is dependent on imports from the Middle East and Europe via the port in Dar es Salaam in neighboring Tanzania. Distributing fuel to all corners of the country is a long and expensive task, as most of it is transported by road.
But a soon-to-be-constructed fuel pipeline may change the situation, with a pipeline project in Zambia’s Muchinga province’s Mpika town already underway.
The ageing Tanzania Zambia Mafuta (TAZAMA) pipeline — built in 1968 — will supply 6.5 million litres of fuel to the new depot in Muchinga, according to Zambian officials.
“The consequence of that [construction] now, is that all the fuel required to be delivered to northern province, Muchinga province, Luapula province, will be picked up from here,” TAZAMA Managing Director, Davison Thawete told journalists while inspecting the project.
A much-needed upgrade on the way
The TAZAMA pipeline runs for 1,710 kilometers (1,062 miles) and has been transporting raw crude oil material for refining from the Port of Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania to Indeni Petroleum Refinery in Zambia’s Ndola town for decades.
According to Zambian authorities, the new facility will have more advanced specifications compared to the TAZAMA pipeline.
Tanzanian and Zambian officials held talks over the new project and the security of the TAZAMA pipeline in July.
During the meetings, Zambia’s Minister of Defense Ambrose Lufuma expressed concerns over the security of the TAZAMA pipeline — particularly related to vandalism — and how this could impact the new project.
“There have been security concerns, as the pipeline passes through communities in both countries,” Lufuma said.
“Previously, the pipeline was transporting commingled (oil) products, but now it has been upgraded to finished products, hence the need for further security.”
Enhancing fuel distribution
The new project will be completed by November this year to enhance fuel distribution across the country, Zambian authorities have told DW.
Zambia currently consumes just over 1 million liters of fuel in a day. A liter of diesel in the capital Lusaka costs approximately $1.07 (€1.01) — a rate many struggle to afford.
The high prices of fuel are often linked to the cost of transportation and distribution by road, especially in the country’s north.
Zambia has a long-term goal of stabilizing diesel supply and maintaining favorable pump prices.
Residents in communities like Muchinga, Luapula and other northern provinces expect some changes due to the ongoing construction.
Energy expert Johnstone Chikwanda told DW that the new project is critical in making fuel more affordable for Zambians.
“It is going to help, because it means it will cut back on the time spent on transporting the fuel into Muchinga province, which could also feed other adjacent provinces.” Chikwanda said.
Zambia’s energy regulation board also hopes road infrastructure will be better protected once the new facility becomes operational.
“Instead of running around the whole country with trucks, fuel will be distributed by pipelines,” Reynolds Bowa, the chairman of Zambia’s Energy Regulation Board (ERB) told DW.
“It will save us money, wear and tear on the roads and the price of the product will be cheaper.”
Chikwanda said he expects the Zambian government to replicate such projects across the country as soon as possible to make fuel transportation safer.
“As you know, the road carnage, we have a lot of congestion on our roads and these tankers have been exploding, the accidents have been a lot, and so transporting fuel by pipeline is an encouraged practice globally, it is cheaper, and it is safer,” he said.
The pipeline, the government said, will also provide an opportunity for TAZAMA to export fuel to Congo’s richest mineral towns, as well as Rwanda and Burundi.
Edited by: Ineke Mules