Tanzania raises natural gas reserve estimates
* Minister says country becoming new gas hub
* Says govt looks to strengthen regulations
DAR ES SALAAM Oct 18 (Reuters) - Tanzania has raised its estimate of recoverable natural gas reserves to 33 trillion cubic feet (tcf) from 28.74 tcf following recent big discoveries offshore, an official said on Thursday.
"These discoveries are an indication that Tanzania is now becoming one of the natural gas hubs and a new frontier in oil and gas exploration in the east Africa region and the world at large," Deputy Energy and Minerals Minister George Simbachawene told an oil and gas conference in Dar es Salaam on Thursday.
Gas strikes off east Africa's seaboard have led to predictions the region could become the world's third-largest exporter of natural gas.
The government said it hoped the gas finds would help to transform the country's economy, which largely depends on farming, mining and tourism.
"The gas discoveries in Tanzania will not automatically be a blessing without challenges, and therefore we should not take things for granted," Simbachawene said.
"We must ... overcome impending challenges including, but not limited to, insufficient institutional and legal frameworks and insufficient human, financial, physical and related resources for the sub-sector."
Tanzania plans to restructure its state-run petroleum regulator and have in place a gas policy and legislation before the end of the year to help regulate its vast natural gas discoveries. (Reporting by Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Jane Baird)