Locals want to be empowered through oil discovery

Oil discovery, Green Hydrogen
The ministry of mines and energy hosted an information-sharing session on the recent oil discovery and the Green Hydrogen project in Walvis Bay .
Leandrea mouers
A plea, directed at government to look into empowering the guy on the street with the recent oil discovery and the envisioned Green Hydrogen project, was made more than once at the recent information-sharing session hosted by the ministry of mines and energy. Minister Tom Alweendo, accompanied by a delegation of experts, has been travelling across the country to address interested stakeholders about the recent oil discoveries made by Shell and Total as well as the Green Hydrogen project Namibia is taking on. The minister explained that the sharing sessions is aimed at answering a number of questions the public have. “It’s important to note that by discovering oil today, does not mean we will be selling oil tomorrow. Typically it take between seven to nine years from oil discovery to production. A number of things need to happen, such as further analysis. With this discovery, which is in deep waters, a lot of work needs to be done to build those platforms to extract the oil. This, however, gives us enough time to strengthen our institutions, our skills and regulations before production starts.” After the presentations done by the ministry’s experts, the central theme of the suggestions and questions aired by members of the public in attendance, revolved around empowering the locals and ensuring that this become a top priority for government with these two projects. In response, Alweendo agreed that local content generation, and employing locals is an issue, but asid that this was not only the case in the oil industry. “The local content policy is going to be part of the law. It won’t be an option – it will be a law. We could have done better in terms of local content and we are trying that it not only becomes a point of talking but something that we need to do in order to address inequality and unemployment rates. Communities and interested parties should come forth with recommendations and suggestions. This is much better than a debate. Advise us on what we can do better.” Someone remarked that the people do not want shares, but a decent salary to live from and called on government to look after its people through these investments. Alweendo emphasised that when the government collects the revenue and builds a road or hospital, this infrastructure are used by Namibians. "By thinking that the only way we are benefiting is if we as an individual receive something directly into our pockets from this resource – we are missing something.” Another concern raised by the attendees is that the revenue from the oil discovery will land in the pockets of the ‘corrupt elite’. Sara Mutondoka said that it is a given that money generated by this oil discovery will somehow end into the hands of corrupt government officials, and leaving the Namibian people with nothing. "When the nation questions these activities it is met with harsh comments. Is it because our laws and regulations are weak, or because it is not enforced?’ “I’ve seen people who believe that its only corruption when it is done by someone they do not know, but once it is my brother, sister or uncle it is something else. Corruption does not help us as a society, it can not only be rooted out by the government themselves but by our communities. The people who are corrupt, live with us, but what do we say? Nothing. Because we are benefiting. Let us hold each other accountable, ” responded the minister. Another attendee stated that the locals have the expertise and the know-how but should be given a seat at the table to share that knowledge. “We need to start with the education of our people until oil production eventually starts. Look at the local expertise.” In terms of strengthening institutions, the minister stated that this can be done by embracing merit. “If we can emphasise the issue of merit, especially in terms of giving people responsibility, I think we might do better than we’ve done in the past.” Kalib Murangi, a local SME owner proposed that government should fence investors. “If we don’t make money directly from this investment, the government needs to add a clause that these investors do not set up other businesses. If they are coming to drill for oil, then you cannot also sell airtime, or do catering.” The minister emphasised that the government is not going to invest money in green Hydrogen or the oil industry. "The government is not using public funds to invest. It is the private sector that is investing and making money on that investment. I will be the last person to agree on using public funds to make investments. It can go wrong, and you lose everything. You will then be the first one to blame me, saying that the money could have been invested in a hospital. It is vital to have private capital to invest in these ventures, and once that works, we benefit from the local content generation and also the revenue that is accrued to the state.” Alweendo explained that extraction at Kudu Gas, which was discovered in 1974, was hampered due to its location and because of the expensiveness of the process. “We might have an opportunity with the Total oil discovery, where they told us that they’ve discovered a lot of gas. If there is a lot of gas as said, where Total made the discovery, which is not too far from Kudu Gas, we can combine the two, have a bigger volume, and off course then it might be viable to take it out. You can’t get the Kudu gas out and make money of it, it’s just too expensive. Everyone who tried to extract the gas and it did not work.” The Namibian government has chosen German consortium Hyphen Hydrogen Energy as the preferred bidder for its Green Hydrogen project. The first phase of this project, which is expected to enter production in 2026, will see the creation of 2 gigawatts of renewable electricity generation capacity to produce green hydrogen for conversion into green ammonia, at an estimated capital cost of US$4.4 billion. Frans Kalenga, the special assistant on Green Hydrogen to the minister explained that oil and green hydrogen is not in contradiction. “The issue is not oil, the issue is the carbon emission. Everyone is trying to save the world, by reducing the amount of carbon we release. If we can produce oil, and not emit it, there is no problem; plus there is a technology for that – carbon capture. To give context, there is a certain level of hypocrisy to it." According to Kalenga, the same people that are advancing the agenda of going green, are the same that have benefited from the oil or fossil fuel. "Like Norway, most of their cars are powered by electricity and they are cheap. This is because the government is subsidizing cars, with money from oil. If they can do it, why can’t we do the same? Because of the gas supply cut to Germany, they are looking at re-opening their coal plants and coal emits much more carbon than us. Our contribution to carbon emission is 0.003% while Germany’s carbon emission is much more than France and Italy combined, just for perspective.”