ENERGY Minister Selibe Mochoboroane says plans are underway to establish a fuel storage facility to supply the country with various petroleum products.
In an interview with the Lesotho Times this week, Mr Mochoboroane said the ministry called for prospective consultants to submit bids for carrying out a four-month feasibility study for the construction of the reservoir.
“We are anticipating that by next month, we would have engaged a consultant who would then recommend the most strategic place to build a fuel reservoir,” said the minister.
“It is very risky that, up to this day, Lesotho does not have its own fuel reservoir considering that anything happening in South Africa automatically affects Lesotho. For instance, industrial action in South Africa would result in Lesotho being unable to access petrol, diesel and paraffin.”
Over the years, industrial strikes in South Africa resulted in acute fuel shortages in Lesotho.
Mr Mochoboroane said the modalities and location of the reservoir would be determined by the recommendations of the consultant and study tour of other countries.
“Since this is the first time we are engaging in such a project, the ministry and the Petroleum Fund board are planning to embark on a study tour in Botswana and/or Swaziland to learn how their went about it,” he said.
“As for the reservoir, we are hoping it would be located in a central place between the northern and southern parts of Lesotho to enable easy access. But the final location will be decided by the consultant.”
The project, the minister said, presented Basotho with opportunities to supply petroleum products.
“We will continue to work with suppliers from outside the country and are in the process of negotiating a framework for splitting the supply chain. The intention is for 30 percent of the fuel to come from the local reservoir upon its completion,” he said.
“Many job opportunities will arise from the project, since the fuel will need to be distributed across the country. We have been advised that even with the reservoir in place, fuel cannot be allowed to remain in one place for a long time.”
Mr Mochoboroane said the government would leave the distribution of the fuel countrywide to the private sector.
“After the project is completed, there would be many opportunities for transporting the fuel to filling stations across the country,” he said.
“The role of the government would only be to level the playing field for the local private sector.”
According to estimates, Lesotho currently imports around 20 million litres of petroleum products in the form of paraffin, diesel and petrol from South Africa every month.