Uganda: Oil Reserves Rival Saudi Arabia's, Says U.S. Expert

Kampala — Uganda's oil reserves could be as much as that of the Gulf countries, a senior official at the US Department of Energy has said.

Based on the test flow results encountered at the wells so far drilled and other oil numbers, Ms. Sally Kornfeld, a senior analyst in the office of fossil energy went ahead to talk about Uganda's oil reservoirs in the same sentence as Saudi Arabia.

"You are blessed with amazing reservoirs. Your reservoirs are incredible. I am amazed by what I have seen, you might rival Saudi Arabia," Kornfeld told a visiting delegation from Uganda in Washington DC.

The group of Ugandans was in Washington on an international visitor programme and looked at the efficient use of natural energy resources.

The group comprised Ministry of Energy officials, a Member of Parliament, members from the civil society and one journalist.

At present, Uganda has four oil prospectors on the ground including Heritage Oil, Tullow Oil, Tower Oil and Dominion Oil.

Of the four prospectors, Tullow and Heritage have registered success at wells in two blocks in the Albertine basin, which lies in the upper-most part of the western arm of the Great Rift Valley.

According to data so far aggregated since the first discovery was made by Australian prospector Hardman Resources (now taken over by Tullow) in June 2006, Uganda has established reserves at 3.5 million barrels of oil per day.

Experts in oil exploration say this could be just a tip of the iceberg.

The sites are still building pressure and production might well exceed the current figures if what has happened elsewhere like Angola is anything to go by.

Flow tests at various wells have indicated flow rates ranging from as low as 1,500 to highs of 14,000 barrels per day. According to earlier releases, the prospectors are now certain that the commercial threshold for development has been exceeded.

Mr. Aidan Heavy, Tullow Oil's chief executive officer revealed early in the year that they assigned a dedicated team of experts to deliver a commercial development plan for the entire basin.

In April last year, Tullow embarked on what it termed as a major drilling campaign in the Butiaba area around Lake Albert targeting an overall reserve potential in excess of a billion barrels.

The Butiaba campaign was preceded by successes in two drilling campaigns in the Kaiso-Tonya area and the Kingfisher field and all these have been 100% successes so far.

The Butiaba campaign has thrown up successes but the two biggest so far have been the Buffalo-Giraffe wells - described as "one of the largest recent onshore oil discoveries in Africa".

"Combined with our other finds in the region, we have now clearly exceeded the thresholds for basin development," the chief executive of Tullow commented then.

The Giraffe-1 exploration well, which is located in the Butiaba region, came up with over 38 metres of net oil pay within an 89-metre gross oil bearing interval.

The data from the Giraffe discovery indicate a net reservoir thickness of 38 metres, the largest encountered in the area to date.

The Buffalo-1 exploration well in Block 1 encountered 15 metres of net gas pay and over 28 metres of net oil pay.

The gas and oil columns encountered are 48 metres and 75 metres respectively with the potential to be even larger.

As Kornfeld marveled at Uganda's oil finds, she was quick to add that for the country to benefit from the oil and gas resources but also avoid the pitfalls of oil producing countries like Nigeria, it is extremely important to set up strong governance structures.

Kornfeld and the other United States officials said they are ready to help Uganda's nascent oil and gas sector with anything including the key environmental issues that are crucial to the efficient management of oil and gas.

"Anything you might want us to help you with we will and we have a lot of expertise in environmental issues relating to oil and gas," Kornfeld said.

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