A walk in Albertine Graben oil fields

Mr Ramathan Ggoobi (C), the Finance permanent secretary, is shown around one of the oil wells in the Kingfisher area during a tour of oil facilities in the Albertine Graben area.  PHOTO | PAUL MURUNGI

What you need to know:

  • The activities at Kingfisher only provide a sneak peek into oil activities, two months after the Final investment decision was signed unlocking a capital investment of $10b in oil related contracts. 

The winding road through the western rift valley in Kikuube District leads to a major oil field - the Kingfisher oil project operated by CNOOC.

Even at a distance of a kilometer, you are able to observe oil drilling equipment tucked at the shores of Lake Albert while at the base of the wide valley lies 31 oil wells that will be drilled on four well pads.

An April report from CNOOC presented to Ramathan Ggoobi, the Finance ministry permanent secretary during a recent visit indicates the ongoing works at Kingfisher includes site preparation for three oil well pads with 20 oil wells.

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

CNOOC has set a target to complete the construction of all the well pads next 2023 with the actual progress of current works being at 11 percent.  

At the well pads is the installation of drilling conductors and construction of infield roads within the well pads by Excel Construction, which was awarded an engineering, procurement and construction contract, one of the four major contracts of the Kingfisher development project.

Other ongoing works include site preparation for the development of a central processing facility with a peak processing capacity of 40,000 barrels of oil per day and 19 kilometre of flow-lines that will connect the oil fields to the central processing facility.  

Once oil production kicks off, the 40,000 barrels of oil will be transported through a feeder pipeline spanning 46 kilometres to the main East African Crude Oil Pipeline. The estimated investment cost of the Kingfisher project is between $2 and $3b.

CNOOC currently employs 2,716 Ugandans, accounting for 78 percent of its workforce. 280 are directly employed by the company while 581 or 81 percent are employed in engineering and construction activities at different levels. 

Another 244 are undertaking pre-drilling activities while 600 are employed under support contracts.

The activities at Kingfisher only provide a sneak peek into oil activities, two months after the Final investment decision was signed unlocking a capital investment of $10b in oil related contracts.

The Kingfisher oil wells are part of the larger Lake Albert oil development project with oil field development, stretching to the north of the lake in Buliisa District.
It is in Buliisa District where Total Energies will also undertake drilling of more than 400 oil wells spread across 31 well pads across 6 fields (Jobi Rii, Ngiri, Gunya,Kigogole, Nsoga, Kasemene and Wahrindi).

About 15 kilometres away from Paraa Bridge in Murchison National Park to the north of River Nile preparations for the construction of Tangi Operation Support Base, which will host more than 600 workers for the exploitation of oil resources in Murchison Falls Park, are ongoing. 

The construction being undertaken by Pearl Engineering is expected to be complete by mid-July or early August with the base expected to handle oil operations within the Murchison Falls National Park. 

Another major project that Total Energies is undertaking is the civil works for preparation of an industrial area in Buliisa District. 

The Industrial Park covers 300 hectares and will host a central processing facility operating 24/7, camping facilities for 4,000 people, operations support base, drilling base, waste water treatment plant, and a lake water abstraction system.

The central processing facility will have capacity to process 190,000 barrels of oil per day with a supply of crude oil through 160 kilometres of flow-lines from the oil wells.

Another 95 kilometre-24 inch feeder pipeline will transport processed crude from the central processing facility in Buliisa to the export hub and refinery in Kabaale, Hoima District.

Civil works at the park, which are being undertaken by MotaEngil, are 60 percent complete. 

MotaEngil has six subcontractors under its belt doing earth works, fencing and drainage.

The manpower at the Industrial site has so far 397 workers most being Ugandans with only 24 being expatriates from MotaEngil.

Ernest Rubondo, the Petroleum Authority of Uganda chief executive, says once civil works are completed, McDermott will take over to begin real installation of oil equipment.

The projected timeline for the construction phase is expected to take three years with five new camps to be constructed and three existing camps upgraded to accommodate close 15,000 personnel.

However, the Petroleum Authority of Uganda projects more than 100,000 people will work once construction activates intensify.

Other works 

In the just concluded oil and gas convention, Phillipe Groueix, the Total Energies general manager, gave an update on the development of supporting infrastructure such as roads, airstrips and well pads.

One of such key infrastructure is the Bugungu Airstrip that will undergo an upgrade with a contractor selected and the contract is currently awaiting approval of Petroleum Authority of Uganda for award. Works on the airstrip are expected to start in April or May.

Mr Phillipe says detailed designs for well pads site preparation are being finalized to enable start of site works in April, after the completion of resettlement action plans activities on first well pads and roads.

Contractors that will undertake drilling of wells are currently engaged in the applicable design, preparation, manufacture and making equipment orders with the first rig expected in November.