Tanzania plans to debate a new bill in parliament this month to guide the development of the country's nascent gas industry, officials said on Monday, adding it could be passed this month.
East Africa has become one of the world's most sought-after oil and gas regions following a string of vast discoveries off its southern coast that have attracted foreign companies seeking new sources to supply energy-hungry Asian markets.
The country has already published three separate policies on natural gas but is yet to pass long-delayed legislation to govern its hydrocarbons industry. The new law could be seen by investors as a sign of political progress on a tricky issue.
"The government will unveil the Natural Gas Bill of 2015 in parliament under certificate of urgency this month," a senior official in the ministry of energy and minerals told Reuters.
"We want the bill to be quickly debated by lawmakers and subsequently passed during the two-week parliament session that starts on Tuesday," the official said.
A statement issued by Tanzania's parliament on Monday confirmed that the gas legislation was among six emergency bills expected to be passed by lawmakers starting this week.
Officials said the government planned to fast-track the natural gas legislation to avoid political distractions with a referendum on a proposed new constitution planned for April, and presidential and parliamentary elections due in October.
Tanzania is estimated to have 53.28 Tcf of gas, and has said that could rise four-fold over the next five years, putting it on par with some Middle East producers.
The country's draft energy policy gives priority to domestic use of its hydrocarbons resources over liquefied natural gas exports, after a debate on how much of its gas reserves should be used locally and how much can be exported.