Total sets July for drilling as 2025 first oil deadline looms 

The ZPEB-1502 oil rig being installed in Kirama Village Buliisa District to undertake oil drilling operations at Ngiri- 3 well pad. Photo / Paul Murungi 

What you need to know:

  • Total has already confirmed that two of the three oil rigs are ready, which gives it the green-light to begin oil drilling

Total Energies is racing against time to deliver first oil in 2025, and is expected to begin oil drilling operations next month after confirming that two of the oil rigs are ready on site.    

The French oil company will follow in the footsteps of China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) that set the pace in oil drilling of 31 oil wells in KingFisher Area in Kikuube District. 

Mr Innocent Osuna, the Total Well Pads superintendent,  revealed these details during a guided tour by Ministry of Energy and local government officials of Tilenga Industrial Area and the ZPEB- 2 oil rig nearing full installation in Kasenyi Village, Buliisa District. 

He said the company will install three oil rigs automated to move to different well pads to drill more than 426 oil wells in Buliisa, Nwoya and parts of Murchison Falls National Park.   

A well pad is a graded area for an oil drilling site where drilling rigs and pumps are planted before the actual drilling starts for an oil well or several oil wells within the same site.

“We are going to operate with three rigs, and the third one is arriving. We have one in Buliisa, and the second one is in the North, and the third is arriving from Mombasa,” Mr Osuna said, noting that the first rig will undertake drilling of 18 wells at the Jobi Rii- 5 well pad at the Tangi Base situated north of Victoria Nile, while the second rig will drill 13 oil wells at the Ngiri- 3 well pad in Buliisa District.  

Total secured its first oil rig - the ZPEB Rig 1501 - last year in September following construction and endurance tests conducted by the Honghua Factory in Guanghan city, Sichuan Province, China

The rig is described as a highly innovative 1,500 Horsepower walking land rig with full integration, automation, low emission and fully soundproofed.

The substructure and rig floor integrate all the necessary equipment to allow the rig move from well to well without equipment disconnection. 

Energy Minister Ruth Nankabirwa who was part of the visiting delegation noted that government is working within a time frame of less than two years to deliver oil in the first half of 2025.  

“We want to see the first oil, and those in charge of developing the facilities are certain that with this speed, we will see first oil,” she said. 

President Museveni in his State of the Nation Address raised queries on expediting infrastructure development for oil and gas production as government continues to prioritise the sector.    

“I intend to meet with the Petroleum Authority [of Uganda] and the oil companies, to harmonise so that we do not miss the target of 2025 as the first oil date,” he said, noting that the oil money will enable government’s plans to complete key targets such as electricity, railway and a government primary school per parish and a secondary school per sub-county. 

Industrial Area at 89 percent complete 

The Industrial Area which spans 729 acres in Ngwedo sub-county, Buliisa District is currently at 89 percent complete and the main contractor McDermott is set to begin work on the central processing facility that will process more than 190,000 barrels of crude oil per day. 

Mota- Engil last year won a Shs968b ($261m) contract to undertakes civil works and site preparation of the Tilenga Industrial Area 

The Industrial Area will consist of a central processing facility operating for 24 hours, an operators camp, operations support base, drilling base and camp, a lake water abstraction system and an electrical network. 

The French oil company will undertake oil drilling operations of over 426 wells on 31 well pads across six oil fields (Job Rii, Ngiri, Gunya, Kigogole, Nsoga, Kasememe and Wahrindi).