Scottish oil and gas firms have been urged to focus on East Africa to recreate the North Sea oil boom from 40 years ago.

Countries such as Mozambique and Tanzania have been found to have huge oil and gas resources – but do not yet have the infrastructure to exploit them.

And ahead of a new licencing round in the region, a leading expert says North-east firms can capitalise on that gap.

“Gas discoveries which have been made offshore in Mozambique and Tanzania are world class discoveries – there are very significant amounts of gas, and we can expect additional finds” Bill Page, tax partner for Deloitte Tanzania, told Energy Voice.

“It is an opportunity particularly for Scottish businesses because of the expertise in offshore operations through North Sea oil and gas. We are looking at East Africa as an equivalent of what Scotland was 40 or 45 years ago, where there was no industry and no expertise here and everything had to be built from scratch.

“Scotland has that expertise, so I think there is very valuable experience here.”

Mr Page will address a conference in London on Friday which will look at existing and future upstream and business opportunities in Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Mozambique.

An estimated 115 – 250 trillion cubic feet of gas have been located offshore East Africa, but additional finds can be expected, Mr Page said.

On top of planned LNG development offshore Mozambique and Tanzania, the region is looking for oil exploration investment, with the biggest finds so far being located in Uganda at an estimated 1billion barrels of recoverable oil.

The London presentation by Deloitte precedes an oil and gas conference in Tanzania on 23/24 October this year, at which the Ministry of Energy will announce the start of a new licencing round.

“Tanzania like its neighbours has an aspiration to become a middle-income country within the next 10-15 years and clearly, these gas discoveries – and potential oil, we hope – will be the catalyst for making those changes happen,” said Mr Page.

“Companies with specialist expertise can be extremely helpful to East Africa in maximising the benefits for all the people there.”

Seven blocks will be open for bidding, including six deep-water offshore licences and one in the northern part of Lake Tanganyika.

Total had been linked with the latter, but has pulled out of the deal due to technical challenges.

Successful bidders are set to be offered uprfront bonuses, but tax regulation for investment in the region is still a work in progress, Mr Page admitted.

“The important thing for companies to understand is that the tax regimes in most of these African countries were not really designed with an upstream oil and gas industry in mind, so there are a lot of areas of uncertainty in the legislation.”