By Dennis Katungi
Seeing is believing. We saw with our own eyes. I am now sharing first hand, first class data. There is no doubt that Oil and Gas will transform Uganda. It is not a joke or a soothing lullaby. It is serious business. We observed all this on a two day trip to the oil region in the albatine graben.
Barrel, Uganda’s Petroleum Industry Magazine organised a Media excursion to the flagship projects of Uganda’s Petroleum industry in Hoima and Buliisa. The day was Thursday 23rd March 2023. A small team, led by the founder and CEO of Barrel, Eng. Bravo Katungi picked us up at Uganda Media Centre.
Ensconced in a huge 4x4, binocular wielding-sharp shooting lads looked set for the 2 day tour. The Sights & sounds of a buzzing media posse are not uncommon to us. We operate in the media bubble as a matter of routine.
I quickly changed from office gear to jungle outfit. We have visited the oil & gas region before, but this was some years back, when there was less to see on the ground. Since the final investment decision was inked, the gas pedal is down full throttle.
The tempo has shifted; there is a tremendous positive vibe. Our first point of call was the Petroleum Authority of Uganda’s offices in Hoima.
The meet, greet & brief was done by relationship managers – Yusuf Masaba of Corporate Affairs and Aggrey Mugume, PAU’s National Content officer. They were upbeat, suave and professional. In their board-room, we were briefed on the Friday early morning drive to Kingfisher, the project under CNOOC.
We set off in a convoy of vehicles to Kingfisher at 8.00 am on Friday 24th March and had a pleasant ride on the flaw-less oil roads network. It is a refreshing experience driving on pot-hole-free roads for miles – unimpeded by the rough and tumble of our usual rugged roads.
As we approached the Kingfisher area, we were led to a designated spot on the tip of the rift valley escarpment. Here, one gets a bird’s eye view of a wide area of the Kingfisher project. The sights are mesmerising.
One can see the huge oil rig erected at the central oil-well of Kingfisher Development Area (KFDA) which covers the field located in Kikuube District with plans for future tie-in of Mputa-Nzizi-Waraga fields in Kaiso Tonya, Hoima District. After the observation and photo-ops, we drove up close to tour the facility.
The development comprises of a Central Processing Facility (CPF) with a capacity of 40,000 barrels of oil per day. We were told that 31 wells, 11 injectors and 20 producers will be drilled on four well pads in this area. There will be a 19 kilometre stretch of flow-lines to connect the fields to the Central processing facility.
A feeder pipeline will run from Buhuka to the export hub and Refinery in Kabaale. There is also a Lake Water Abstraction station. There is an extensive infrastructure of temporary and permanent camps, a materials yard, a jetty and several access roads.
The community, who were not affected by the project still live within walking distance of the oil wells. Their homes are dotted all over.
As we exited Buwuka, we visited the National Enterprise (NEC) Waste Treatment Facility. NEC formed a joint venture with HBP, a Chinese company to manage waste generated from the oil fields to international standards. They classify hazardous wastes [petroleum waste] and handle it on their site. The solid waste will be generated at the well pads during operation.
Engineer Kenneth Mapooli a UPDF lieutenant showed us around the facility and talked us through the operation.The facility is an automated thermal desorption unit [TDU] that treats synthetic based mud, a waste generated by oil-based drilling.
It has a process capacity of 3 tons per hour. It has a waste treatment plant for treating waste fluids – with a medium treatment capacity.
The facility also harbours engineered landfills for holding and disposal of treated solid waste. The NEC facility has a permanent weighbridge for weighing the waste as it arrives from the oil wells.
We headed straight to Kabaale International Airport in Hoima. The PAU staff in our motorcade sought out the most knowledgeable officer who took us through the airport explaining things as we paused on the runway.
The airport has a 3.5km runway with a 75m width. It will operate under Visual Flight Rules [VFR]. It has a taxiway of 25 m width and 60 m length.
A taxi lane has been constructed along the western edge of the apron to facilitate access to stands. Some of the ducts, including the perimeter, access, circulation and apron roads are well under construction.
They have a larger width than the general road network because they facilitate the movement and manoeuring of heavy trucks with wide loads moving within the 29 square kilometer area.
The airport facilities cover 6 villages including Kyapaloni, Bukona, Nyamasoga, Nyahaira, Kitengwa, Majengo and Kamukeduke in Kabaale Parish, Buseruka Subcounty in Hoima district.
The runway is complete, one terminal building including an adjacent warehouse are also close to ready for use.
We concluded the day with a visit to the EnviroServ facility in Nyamasoga–Kabaale in Hoima. EnviroServ recently won a contract worth $89 million to collect and transport waste from drilling activities on the Tilenga oil fields in the Buliisa and Nwoya districts for the next five years.
This facility will do for Tilenga what the NEC plant is doing for Kingfisher. The principal facility Eng. Peter Odil showed us around.
The entity has been managing hazardous waste, disposing of both liquid and solid waste. EnviroServe runs a certified laboratory which services the industry as well as meeting all in-house analytical requirements.
They collect, treat, and dispose of general and hazardous waste in Uganda, South Africa and Mozambique.
The entity employs 2,200 people and has a turn-over in excess of $80 million.
EnviroServ’s portfolio of customers includes a number of multinational firms operating in the petrochemicals, manufacturing, metallurgical and mining sectors.
At Tilenga, TotalEnergies is the principle client of EnviroServe. Our visit there coincided with that of a large group of Engineering and biosciences students from Uganda Christian University, Mukono who were clearly excited by the field activity and the prospects of a career in the Industry. Some, studying relevant courses were promised internships.
The story of our visit to the major complex at Tilenga will be for another day.
All in all, the future of the oil and gas sector in Uganda is looking up. The country is now unstoppable in its quest to become a major oil & gas producing country.
The writer is Head of Communications & Media Relations – Uganda Media Centre.