Continental Focus, International Reach

Uganda: Total Gets Go Ahead from NEMA

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Total E&P got the go ahead for its Tilenga development in Uganda. The project received a green light by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) after a 10-month evaluation by the regulatory body.

The French firm 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 law clearly talks about the presiding officer not being an interested party in the project for which the public hearing has been called,” he said, “The approval has not been done in line with the concerns of the people.”

“We are planning to take NEMA to court for breach of the law because we feel that if the procedures have not been followed, we should challenge these institutions in the courts of law, otherwise, these public hearings are just a formality,” Kamugisha told The Independent on April 26.

In a statement released on April 23, the joint venture oil companies which include Total, Tullow Oil, and CNOOC, said NEMA’s approval marks a key milestone in the progress towards the development of Uganda’s oil resources. They noted that whereas the approval is legally necessary to allow the project go ahead, it is also an important requirement for the FID.

“Total and its partners Tullow and CNOOC are committed to being models of excellence whose mission is to operate in a safe and environmentally friendly manner for current and future generations,” the statement reads in part.

“We are fully committed to applying best practices to the development of the oil resources by avoiding potential negative impacts as our first priority, minimizing potential impacts and strictly adhering to policies and standards that meet international requirements such as the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) performance standards (PS) of 2012, as well as national environmental laws and regulations.”

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.