By Patrick Kagenda
Marilyn Hill is the Country Manager of Neptune Oil in Uganda. The Independent’s Patrick Kagenda spoke to her.
When do you start your day?
I start my day at 7 a.m. with overnight emails received and to make plans for the day whether in Kampala or in West Nile where our company is exploring for oil.
What challenges do you face on the job?
Neptune is exploring a new license with features that are totally different from the areas of oil discovery to the south. The infrastructure of the area is a challenge as we need to build and repair roads to transport seismic and drilling teams. In our continuing commitment to hire and train Ugandans we have delighted in discovering the wealth of talent available and their excellent work ethic. At the present time, over 90 percent of our staff of 34 is Ugandan.
How are you resolving these challenges?
We are building our own roads and working with the government in a partnership to improve infrastructure. In the ongoing support of Ugandan employees, we are training from within the company and financing graduate and post-graduate degrees as well as paying school fees for our employees’ dependents. Our many social programs in the exploration area are also used to help support education and facilities for schools such as sanitation and clean water.
How are you addressing the competition in the oil exploration sector?
There is no competition in the oil sector in Uganda as each operator has their own license to develop. In fact, there is a comradeship amongst companies as we share issues and ideas.
You are an oil exploration firm, what happens when you do not discover oil in your license area?
If we do not find oil in our early wells, we have to take a decision to proceed with more exploratory techniques such as air surveys and seismic, or we might determine that the risk is too high, and then we would relinquish our license and concentrate on exploration elsewhere.
What new innovations are coming up at Neptune Oil?
In our exploration operations we are constantly looking for modern technology developments which can improve our understanding of the exploration characteristics of our area and our chance of success €” this would be the case with all exploration companies. Where we try to be at the forefront of best oil company practice is in environmental and social management practice and community relationships. As a new oil and gas province, Uganda has many related challenges in providing the best outcome for its people and Neptune is trying to set a good example.
In our exploration area that has limited electricity we are developing more solar energy solutions for schools, hospitals and clinics. We also are aware that communication with the people affected by our work is paramount and we have developed cartoons in four languages which will be distributed to schools and administrative offices describing our activities. We also conduct radio talk shows from Arua and Moyo to explain our work and to answer questions. Our Visitors’ Information Centre based in Arua in the library that we refurbished is another place where we can discuss any issues with the citizens of West Nile.
What is your style of management and who are your mentors?
I respect our team, our government partners and the good citizens of our exploration area. I remember that as a foreign oil company, we are guests in Uganda and we constantly build relationships by listening to constituents and helping wherever we can. We limit the number of outside experts needed to complete specific projects such as a seismic survey or an exploration well and we ensure that Ugandans are being trained by the foreign technicians. My mentor is our Chairman, Peter Kingston, as well as many wise people I have worked with in Canada, Jamaica, Serbia, India etc. As a foreigner, I am aware that I represent my country of Canada and the country of Neptune’s parent company, the UK, wherever I work and that the good will developed goes far beyond an exploration project. I am also a mother and my work is guided by the maternal feelings I feel for our employees and our West Nile residents. I am proud to be called Mama Mel by all!