Boom in oil activities increases demand for skilled welders

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What you need to know:

  • Uganda has 12 accredited vocational institutions that train in the different levels of welding including, Uganda Petroleum Institute Kigumba,, Sunmaker Oil and Gas Training Institute, Nakawa Vocational College and, Uganda Technical College, Kichwamba. 
  • Welders and fabricators are an integral part of speeding up the ongoing construction phase to kick start commercial production in 2025. 

The China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) Uganda las week launched a selection round for welders to undergo hands-on training in advanced fabrication and recruitment on the Tilenga project in Nwoya District.

The selection attracted 40 applicants, drawn from the oil project affected districts, in which 10 to 15 successful trainees, will be selected for welding jobs, the company said, while the rest will be considered for other positions. 

The applicants, one after another in their testimonies delivered at the training facility run by Sunmaker Energy in Bugolobi, indicated they did not initially consider welding a worthwhile undertaking until recently.  

Nearly all of them had elementary experience in fabrication but in the highly standardised oil and gas industry, advanced knowledge in welding and certification is still a challenge.

Welding is basically fusing separate pieces of metal together, using intense heat and pressure. 

From communication gadgets to transport vehicles and medical equipment to ammunition, construction equipment and all sorts of machinery, are all works of the welders. 

For long spells welding was regarded a dirty and dangerous job - a preserve for vocational education and others self-taught fabrication workshops – but with the construction of the oil infrastructure taking shape that view is fast changing

While Uganda has a considerable supply of welders with advanced knowledge, certification has proved a challenge. In a few instances, the oil companies and their contractors have had to pick the tab for local welders to attain advanced training courses in 4G, 5G and 6G or 6GR levels, respectively.

Uganda has 12 accredited vocational institutions that train in the different levels of welding including, Uganda Petroleum Institute Kigumba,, Sunmaker Oil and Gas Training Institute, Nakawa Vocational College and, Uganda Technical College, Kichwamba. 

Sinopec officials said they have mobilised experienced expatriate welders to make sure that standard welding skills are transferred to local welders, supported by more training and retooling.

“We are engaging local welders and will engage more in the course of project execution,” said Mr Zhang Zongxin, the Sinopec Uganda boss. 

The company early this year offered training to 26 local welders.

Sinopec is one of the two contractors, alongside US-based McDermott, awarded the engineering, procurement, supply, construction and commissioning tender for the Tilenga project operated by TotalEnergies. 

It is employed on the northern part of Tilenga in Nwoya District and expects to start pipe construction and installation from the well pads inside the Murchison Falls National Park in the first quarter of 2023.

The Tilenga project will produce about 230,000 barrels of oil per day to be fed into the proposed East African Crude Oil Pipeline. 

Welders and fabricators are an integral part of speeding up the ongoing construction phase to kick start commercial production in 2025. Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) indicates that 1,230 welders are required during the construction phase. 

“The country has been able to train 1,147 welders from 2G-6G coded welding with international certifications,” Ms Gloria Sebikari, the PAU manager for corporate affairs, but noted they are cognizant of the fact that Ugandans may not, at the start have all the required welding skills for the various stages of the construction of the respective oil and gas facilities and installations. 

“However, all the licensed oil companies, their contractors, and sub-contractors are required by law to have nationalisation plans. The plans provide for technological transfer,” she noted. 

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