Word on the street is that you are leaving.
We always have to leave at some point. And yes, I will be leaving in a few weeks from now; the official date has not been communicated yet, and will be communicated first to my partners, the regulator and Minister of Energy.
How has your experience been like?
It has been a long journey. It’s quite a personal question in a certain way. I am very passionate about developing energy projects for the benefit of all stakeholders.
I came here in 2018 with the objective of starting the project as soon as possible. Unfortunately, it took a bit longer than expected. I realised that there were certain number of prerequisites that had to be fulfilled.
This is an extraordinary project, enormous but fascinating and it has been a privilege for me to be here at this point in time, not to forget the numerous people I have met along the way.
What was the most challenging?
For me, the challenge was to bring all those prerequisites together. You remember we had to resolve the farm down of Tullow Oil participation.
We also had to agree on all those agreements on EACOP since all the three projects (Tilenga, Kingfisher and EACOP) are interconnected; the upstream cannot exist without the midstream, neither can the midstream without the upstream.
It was difficult to reach an agreement without explaining exactly where we are coming from; or the fact that we did not seek to take advantage of any of our partners but to find collective agreement across.
Fortunately, despite the March-July lockdown in 2020, we succeeded, working with the guidance of President Museveni and our group chief executive officer Patrick Pouyanné.
There is a feeling that during those negotiations, you were bent on beating government in a certain corner.
I don’t agree with this description. The truth is that we have a business relationship where each party seeks to protect its vital interests but what is important in the end is that we find a common ground.
I didn’t see anyone beaten in any corner; we may have had moments of disagreement, but over and above, else, there was common interest to find a solution.
So, are you satisfied with the momentum on both Tilenga and EACOP?
I would be even more pleased if we moved faster. The oil business is a long process, it takes quite a long time. We had love to see things move faster.
As a private company we need to recover our costs; so, all I can say is that the momentum is where it is, luckily it has been accelerated, thanks to the push by our leaders.
Recently you awarded conditional engineering, procurement, and construction tender for Tilenga. What’s the latest?
Yes, the conditional letters of award have enabled us to start activities. The next step will be to sign the definitive contracts which is targeted for August this year. However, this doesn’t impair the progress we can make in the meantime.
We have been actively working on land acquisition. We finalized the first phase for resettlement action plan and we are now in the process of implementing the second to five phase for the other sites.
You operate the Tilenga project and are equity shareholders in Kingfisher operated by CNOOC but the two don’t seem to be moving hand in hand. Does it in any way affect momentum?
Kingfisher is smaller than Tilenga, so the schedule of completion is shorter by about six months. In terms of activity, Kingfisher was more progressed in land acquisition; they had less land to be acquired, surface preparation, so the plans are aligned.
What is the general cost of developing Tilenga?
If you look at the EPC contract it’s in the region of $2b but if you look at the extended features of the project such as drilling, you need to add close to $1b, plus all the other budget items such as land acquisition, project management and surface preparation, among others. This brings us to a total slightly above $4b (Shs14 trillion).
How are you committed to the timelines that you have laid out?
We are in the world of project with a lot of interfaces and different stakeholders. There are some elements that need to be fulfilled, some might be dependent on us, some on our shareholders, and some on government. Regardless, there is a collective objective of starting to export oil in the first quarter of 2025.
In May, Total E&P’s parent company changed name to TotalEnergies, from what I read to anchor the company’s transformation into a broad-based energy, how significant is that?
TotalEnergies is anchored in the present world and this world is changing, particularly in relation to climate change.
So, to evolve with this change is to think energy; whereas the world requires more and more energy, there is need to be more conscious about climate change. This necessitates us to reduce our carbon footprint and transition to renewable energy, wind energy. We want to be a credible and big player in renewable energy. It’s not a mere declaration, we have been doing this from as far back as 2016.
We can defend this project
How do you reconcile your explanation with critics who argue that you shouldn’t be developing things like EACOP?
We are willing to demonstrate that this is a good project in terms of sustainability and carbon footprint. We can defend this with facts. Some people might argue against developing the project. However, the world still needs oil and it is our duty and commitment to develop low cost oil, in the most responsible and respectful manner for the environment and for all surrounding communities, respectively.