It’s Day-Dreaming for Uganda to Expect Oil by 2020; says Senior Government Engineer

Oil deposits were discovered in Uganda along its border with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2006 but delays in erecting the necessary infrastructure, tax wrangles and the drop in the oil price have delayed the start of production.

KAMPALA, Uganda. As the public gets diverted from issues of oil drilling that begins in three years’ time (2020), to the discussion on the removal of the Presidential Age limit, we regenerate the discussion of oil production once again.

Once the oil production starts, the country is set to be reaping at least US$ 1.5 billion annually that is if the process starts indeed as planned in 2020. Tullow which now has 12% of the three fields being developed, estimated to contain 2.5bn recoverable barrels of oil.

At full production, the fields are expected to produce up to 230,000 barrels a day. Tullow estimates the cost of production at $25 a barrel. To put Uganda’s oil reserve figures in a wider context, the world’s most oil-rich state, Saudi Arabia, still has 263 billion barrels of ‘proven’ reserves.  Libya has 46 billion, Nigeria 37 billion, Angola 9.5 billion.

One or two billion barrels therefore represent a big find for Uganda—enough, certainly, to supply domestic needs for at least 20 years while selling a significant surplus overseas—but it is not such a big find for the world beyond. The world as a whole consumes one billion barrels of oil every fortnight.

But a senior government engineer has sadly announced that it may still be a dream! “It may not be possible to drill oil in 2020.” During the Budget speech for 2016/17, President Museveni set a target for oil production in Uganda to be the year 2020. This has also been the ‘song’ by Irene Muloni, the Energy minister who, on several occasions, has said the oil production target is 2020.

Caption, MPs Margaret Lamwaka (Kitgum Woman), Lawrence Biyika Songa (c) and Aggrey Nsjekanabo the board member at Food Rights Alliance during the meeting in Kampala (Photo: Patrick Jaramogi)

But the Investigator has reliably established from experts that this may be a travesty. Even oil companies refused to reveal to us which year oil will start to flow. Government needs at least $8 billion, close to Shs30 trillion to invest in the sector before we can see oil drilled in the close to 500 oil wells discovered so far.

Eng. Richard Cong, the Commissioner for Water production in the Ministry of Water and Environment stunned many when he said government would be dreaming by saying the first commercial oil production would be out by 2020.

“It may seem crazy but each new well requires over 2.5 million gallons of water for completion. Not only that, besides the water needed for drilling and fracking, industry experts have found that for every one barrel of oil produced, over seven and a half barrels of water are also produced,” said Cong.

Addressing experts at the Food Rights Alliance and Troicaire-organized high Level Dialogue on Water resource management meeting held in Kampala on Tuesday, he said further; “I have been an engineer in this field for over 35 years. There can never be oil minus water. Government plans to pump at least 180 barrels of oil per day but we need at least 190 barrels of water to get that oil. Remember oil floats on water, and not vice versa.”

He described as unfortunate, the lack of government plans to secure effective water management ahead of the oil drilling. “A lot is being talked about oil drilling by 2020, but nothing seems apparent about having water needed in place to achieve this,” he said.

Similarly for the production of one million cubic feet of natural gas, over 260 barrels of water are produced. “With this much production, water plays a key role in keeping the well pad running and maintaining an optimized system,” he said.

You’re dreaming: Eng Cong during his presentation
(Photo: Patrick Jaramogi)

Cong said however that there was a cabinet director to have water in all villages by 2020. “Apart from the strategic presidential and cabinet directive to restore wetlands and forests, we have a presidential directive to have clean water in all villages in Uganda by 2020,” he said. He said his ministry (Water and Environment) had been directed to ensure that no woman or man carries a jerrycan of water in her/his head by 2030. “Heads are not meant for carrying water but for thinking,” he said.

Irene Muloni, the Energy minister said Uganda government granted production licences for Exploration Area 1 (EA1) at the northern end of Lake Albert (in the Murchison Falls National Park) operated by Total, and Exploration Area 2 (EA2) to the east of Lake Albert in the Butiaba region operated by Tullow in South Western Uganda, better known as the Albertine Graben.

“Government has awarded three licences; Ngiri, Jobi-Riii, and Gunya to Total E&P. On the other hand, Tullow secured five fields namely Kasamene-Wahrindi, Kigogole-Ngara, Nsoga, Ngege and Mputa-Nzizi-Waranga. “The licences have been issued for a period of 25 years and can be renewed for an additional 15 years as provided for in the Production Sharing Agreements,” said Muloni.

The Chairperson Parliamentary Forum on Climatic change Hon, Lawrence Biyika Songa said more efforts are needed to have oil produced by 2020. The Women MP for Kitgum Lamwaka Margaret noted that three years may be rather short a time to achieve the dream.

The day event held at the Metropole Hotel in Kampala was organized by FRA to brainstorm on action plans needed to have efficient water resource management in the country to avert food insecurity.

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Patrick Jaramogi is a trained Crime, Financial and Fraud investigative journalist. He is a senior writer and Editor at the Investigator. He can be reached via email: [email protected] or watsup +256772426211​​​