The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Frontier Regions (FR) have enormous reserves of minerals, oil and natural gas that can augment economic activity in the war-torn areas, a research project concluded.
Talking to The Express Tribune ‘Source Rock Mapping and Investigation of Hydrocarbon Potential (SRMIHP)’ Project Coordinator Dr Fazal Rabi Khan said that exploration and excavation of oil and gas will introduce a new era of development and prosperity in the tribal areas.
“There can be many job opportunities created for people in the tribal belt if mineral exploration and extraction is pursued properly,” said Khan, who is also the chairman of the Geology Department in Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan (Palosa Campus).
The project was launched in 2008 under an agreement between the Fata Development Authority and National Centre of Excellence in Geology University of Peshawar. The project, which was completed at an estimated cost Rs40 million, was completed in June 2012.
Khan said that their objectives include identifying hydrocarbon generating rocks and its distribution in the region, preparing a geo-database regarding hydrocarbon potential and generating a systematic data to attract oil and gas companies for exploration.
The project has successfully collected, processed and digitised the data as a result of which, 80% of the project area has been mapped digitally. “This mapping has led to the discovery of seven new oil and gas seepages.”
He added that 11 oil and gas exploration companies have reserved 16 blocks in Fata, which go across from FR Peshawar and Kohat to Khyber, Orakzai, Bannu, Tank and up to North and South Waziristan.
He said that recently 17 oil and gas exploration companies initiated their operations in Khyber, Orakzai, North and South Waziristan agencies as well as in FR Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu, Tank and DI Khan.
Khan said that Mari Gas Company, HYCARBEX Inc, Oil and Gas Development Company, Tullow, Saif Energy, MOL Pakistan Oil and Gas, Orient Petroleum International, Pakistan Petroleum, ZHEN, ZAVER and others are currently working in Fata.
Oil and Gas Development Company (OGDC) will start drilling in these areas for the exploration of oil and gas reservoirs. The chairman said that the foreign oil company, Tullow, has obtained a licence for the exploration of oil and gas in North Waziristan Agency and Bannu, while MOL has shown interest in Khyber Agency, Kohat and Peshawar.
“Although law and order problems can become a hindrance, the project can be managed considering its importance,” he added.
Khan elaborated that the process in Fata would not only help overcome the energy crisis but will also give a big boost to efforts for the socio-economic development of the region. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is teeming with minerals and Fata is a new oil estate, he said. “In the next five years, this province will produce more oil than Dubai and as far as shortage of gas is concerned, the hills of FR Tank are full of it.”
He said Governor Masood Kausar has also taken keen interest in the project. “The best news for the tribal areas is that there are large reserves of natural resources and foreign and local companies interested in its extraction can exploit the resources,” said Kausar.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 26th, 2012.