Uganda discovered commercial oil reserves nearly 20 years ago but production has been delayed by lack of infrastructure.
Uganda on Tuesday launched its first oil drilling programme, its petroleum agency said, a key milestone as the country races to meet its target of first oil output in 2025.
The Kingfisher field is part of a $10bn scheme to develop Uganda’s oil reserves under Lake Albert in the west of the country and build a vast pipeline to ship the crude to international markets via an Indian Ocean port in Tanzania.
“The president [Yoweri Museveni] has officially commissioned the start of drilling campaign on the Kingfisher oilfield,” the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) said on Twitter, describing the development as a “milestone”.
The East African nation discovered commercial reserves of petroleum nearly two decades ago in one of the world’s most biodiverse regions but production has been repeatedly delayed by a lack of infrastructure like a pipeline.
The Kingfisher field, operated by the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), is expected to produce 40,000 barrels of oil per day at its peak, PAU said.
“We are excited as a country and Africa,” energy minister Ruth Nankabirwa told the AFP news agency.
PAU, which regulates the petroleum sector, said President Yoweri Museveni launched the programme at a site in the Kingfisher project area, one of the country’s two commercial oil development areas.
The president has officially commissioned the start of drilling campaign on the Kingfisher oil field that is expected to produce 40,000 barrels of oil per day at peak once production commences in 2025. #KingfisherDrillingLaunch @UNinUganda @CNOOCUgandaLtd @TotalEnergiesUG pic.twitter.com/2NScAuSKbs
— PAU_Uganda (@PAU_Uganda) January 24, 2023
Uganda’s second project area, Tilenga, located north of Lake Albert astride River Nile, is operated by France’s TotalEnergies.
CNOOC and TotalEnergies co-own all of Uganda’s existing oilfields alongside the state-run Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC).
At peak, Uganda plans to produce about 230,000 barrels of crude oil per day. The country’s crude reserves are estimated at 6.5 billion barrels, of which 1.4 billion barrels are recoverable.
However, the plans to tap the oil at Lake Albert, a 160-kilometre (100-mile) long body of water separating Uganda from the Democratic Republic of Congo, have run into strong opposition from rights activists and environmental groups.
They have said it threatened the region’s fragile ecosystem and the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people.