Total E&P has gotten the go ahead for its Tilenga oil development in Uganda. The project received a green light by the country’s National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) after a 10-month evaluation by the regulatory body.
The French oil major said the approval from NEMA was a major step in Uganda becoming an oil producer, however conservationists are still not onboard with the project due to its location in the Murchison Falls National Park. The park is a leading tourist destination and home to endangered species of animals, birds, insects and reptiles.
NEMA’s approval was a result of a 10-month process that involved several field visits to the project area and public hearings to capture concerns of especially the affected communities.
“People expressed their views with regards to the project violating their cultural rights; the people also asked NEMA to ensure that management plans for noise, dust and water pollution are in place before any approval is done,” Dickens Kamugisha, the head of the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), a Kampala-based non-profit told The Independent. Kamugisha is also worried about the fact that the environmental body approved the project without taking into account the views of over 2,000 people who turned up for the public hearings in 2018.
Kamugisha says civil society also took exception to the fact that the presiding officer for the two public hearings was Fred Kabagambe Kaliisa, the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development who now advises President Yoweri Museveni on the oil, gas and mining sector.
The Tilenga oil project is located on License Areas 1 and 2 which are currently operated by Total E&P Uganda B.V and Tullow Uganda Operations Pty Ltd and is found in the north of Lake Albert closer to the Uganda-DR Congo border.
It includes six oil fields, an industrial area, buried infield pipelines and supporting infrastructure, including camps, most of which are within or near the ecologically fragile Murchison Falls National Park and the Nile Delta.
NEMA is now undertaking its evaluation on the environmental and social impact assessment for the Kingfisher project in Hoima that was submitted by CNOOC Uganda Limited, the Chinese operator that is looking at developing oil production infrastructure along the southeastern side of Lake Albert.
Both the Tilenga and Kingfisher projects are estimated to cost $8 billion and will respectively have processing facilities with capacity of up to 190,000 and 40,000 bpd. These processing facilities are supposed to feed crude oil into the refinery and the 1,445-km long export pipeline once production starts, which is now scheduled for 2022.