Ugandan oil reserves reach 2 billion bbl

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, June 12 -- Ugandan Finance Minister Syda Bumba said that, due to rigorous exploration activity, her country’s confirmed oil reserves reached 2 billion bbl in June—the end of the 2008-09 fiscal year—which is up from 300 million bbl in 2006.

Regarding even further increases of the reserves, Bumba said that more oil wells will be drilled during the coming fiscal year in the districts of Arua and Nebbi in the Western Nile region and in Kanungu in southwestern Uganda.

Bumba’s announcement coincided with reports that Tullow Oil Uganda Ltd., now making a fresh assessment of the country’s oil production, has decided to drop its early oil production scheme (EPS) following the discovery of more oil and gas in western Uganda’s Albertine Graben.

"The original EPS was supposed to concentrate on the development of only [the] Mputa oil fields. This was small compared to the discovered hydrocarbons," Godfrey Ojambo, the Tullow field operations supervisor, told Uganda’s New Vision newspaper.

The original EPS, which was supposed to begin in September, was based on the discovery of 300 million bbl of oil reserves, along with a small amount of natural gas. Since then, 600 million bbl of oil and 14 million cu m of gas have been discovered, with even greater amounts expected.

"We want to broaden the scope to connect more oil fields,” Ojambo said. “This is our integral part of the development plan. We have a team carrying out the economic and risk assessment for the production.”

Stephen Biraahwa, a member of the Ugandan parliament and chairman of its national economy committee, said the original EPS had changed "and any delays are for a good cause."

Biraahwa said, "This is because we have to carry out fresh feasibility and environmental studies to incorporate all the oil wells including those found in the north. The original EPS was conceived five years ago. Since then, we have discovered more oil, which has prompted us to expand. We are also trying to incorporate the exploitation of gas, which was not in the earlier plan."

Discussion of the EPS came amid concerns about a military confrontation between Uganda and its neighbor, Congo (former Zaire).

According to newswire reports, Congo has established a border post in the disputed region of Goli near the northwestern Ugandan district of Nebbi, near Lake Albert and along the oil-rich Albertine rift.

"I believe this is just aggression,” said Betty Adima, commissioner for Nebbi district. “It is provocation. That is the simplest way I can put it," Adima told the Agence France Presse.

The Ugandan government has sent a protest note to Congo over the incursion, but has no plans to deploy troops of its own in the disputed region at the moment, according to a spokesman for the Ugandan defense ministry.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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