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UGANDA: 2018 to unlock oil billions

Business at the Kingfisher oil field appears slow at the moment but is expected to pickup soon. INDEPENDENT/RONALD MUSOKE

UGANDA: $20 billion up for grabs

Kampala, Uganda | HAGGAI MATSIKO | Ernest Rubondo, the Executive Director, Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU), is optimistic 2018 will be big for Uganda’s oil industry.

“The sector will be felt in 2018,” he told The Independent in an interview at his offices at Amber House December last year. Rubondo has been at the helm of all the major developments in the sector since the 1990s.

He previously headed the Petroleum Exploration and Production Department (PEPD) credited for most of the milestones the country’s oil industry has seen. The department was later restructured into three entities—a directorate in charge of policy, a national oil company that deals with the business and PAU, which regulates the sector and which Rubondo has headed since 2016.

Coupled with his decades of experience, his current role gives him a vantage point on the direction of the industry. Indeed, days before the interview, Rubondo had just received the last of the eight delegations of investors from several countries—France, Egypt, Russia, UK, Norway and Belgium—that visited Uganda in December alone, which he said was one of the indicators of things to come.

These investors are targeting a piece of the $ 20 billion expected to be invested in the oil development phase, he said.

Other pointers, he added, include; the application for parliamentary approval of a loan to finance the construction of the airport in Hoima targeting the oil industry; the near-completion of Front End Engineering designs for the oil fields, among others.

Rubondo is also in charge of vetting companies that are positioning to supply the oil industry, which PAU qualifies and lists in its National Suppliers Database (NDS). As of 2016, the NDS included only 499 companies. By close of 2017, a total of 1,521 companies had applied to be members of PAU’s National Suppliers Database. Of these, only 927 entities made the final list, of which 561 are registered in Uganda and 366 are registered outside.

“This kind of interest,” Rubondo said, “is another indicator of how fast the industry is moving.”

While most of this interest is for the development phase of the 6.5 billion barrels of oil that has already been discovered of which some 1.2 billion is recoverable, the new round of exploration is set to be even bigger.

For the 6.5 billion to be discovered, only 121 wells were drilled.

In the new round of exploration, which begins this year, 400 wells are set to be drilled.

“People keep asking when the oil money is coming,” Rubondo said, “All this activity is oil money. All these people coming in will need food, hotels and many other services. That is money.”

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