After months of review and consultations, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) granted Certificate of Approval for the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) process for the TILENGA Oil development project in Nwoya and Buliisa districts. This paves way for the oil companies to proceed with other vital steps towards making of the Final investment Decision (FID).
The Certificate of Approval was issued on 15th April 2019 and was awarded to Total E&P Uganda (TEPU) and Tullow Uganda Operations Pty Ltd (TUOP) for the proposed development of six oil fields (with 34 oil production pads), an industrial area, buried pipelines and other supporting infrastructure for License Areas 1 and 2 operated by TEPU and TUOP respectively.
The approvals followed public hearings in the oil host communities of Buliisa and Nwoya districts (and neighboring districts of Hoima, Masindi, and Pakwach) on the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment report. However, some Civil Society Organizations previously urged NEMA not to approve the project citing several loopholes that required serious rectification and consideration before any form of approval.
The overall objective of the TILENGA Project is to develop the discoveries in License Areas 1 and 2 to enable commercial production of the oil and gas resources in an economically prudent plus environmentally and socially responsible manner using sound reservoir management principles and best industry practices. This includes ensuring the safety of workers and the public, and limiting as far as practicable adverse environmental and social impacts of the projects' activities, enhancing the beneficial impacts, and also seeking to achieve a net gain in biodiversity and ecosystem services as relevant as possible, in compliance with national laws and international standards.
An Environment and Social Management Plan (ESMP) has been developed in order to support the development and implementation of the mitigation measures identified in the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report. The environmental and social management plan details activities, impacts, proposed mitigation and monitoring mechanisms with associated roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders. Once developed, Uganda's oil and gas sub-sector is expected to spur economic growth and development through growth of local businesses, provision of employment and generation of more revenues to finance the country's development priorities.
Before undertaking any project that is likely to impact the environment, the National Environment Act Cap 153 requires developers to undertake Environmental and Social Impact Assessments which are approved by NEMA before the project is cleared for implementation. NEMA's Executive Director, Dr. Tom Okurut said the oil companies were cleared to undertake oil fields' development in a manner that will also ensure that the environment is protected. He said, NEMA approved the developments after giving key guidance on the requirements which the developers have to adhere to.
For instance, NEMA tasked developers to restore sites where they shall be operating. Oil developers normally clear vegetation during field operations, they accumulate debris and other solid and liquid wastes. The developers will thus be required to have restoration and oil spill management plans among others, to mitigate physical impacts and oil spills whenever they occur, and have to be managed well. Additionally, the developers shall be required to devise appropriate Social Impacts Management Plans to enable proper management of the social impacts that shall arise from the planned developments.
The TILENGA project so far includes Jobi-Rii, Gunya and Ngiri fields licensed to TEPU; and Kasemene-Wahrindi, Nsoga, Ngege, and Kigogole - Ngara Oil fields licensed to TUOP.
According to the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report, the TILENGA project is composed of production well pads, a central processing facility and other associated facilities, production and injection network of pipelines and cables, Bugungu airstrip, Tangi Operations Camp, a water abstraction system, Victoria Nile crossing, River Nile Pipeline crossing and some critical roads among others. The project also includes temporary construction camps, construction support bases, a logistical check point in Masindi and borrow pits among others.
"The issuance of the certificate of approval is one of the key milestones for the development of the (TILENGA) project. It shows the progress being made in the development of the oil sub-sector," said Gloria Sebikari, a Manager of Corporate Affairs and Public Relations at Petroleum Authority of Uganda.
The approval comes at a time when Government is undertaking various activities in the area that has been gazzeted for the project. A Land acquisition and resettlement process, negotiations with Project Affected Persons (PAPs), livelihood restoration interventions for PAPs are all on-going.
The government through its licensed oil companies discovered commercially viable oil deposits north of Victoria Nile in Murchison Falls National Park and South of Victoria Nile in Buliisa district, among other exploration areas.
In a related development, Uganda National Oil Company Limited (UNOC) is in negotiations with the JV partners - Tullow, Total and CNOOC to comply with state participation requirements under the Production Sharing Agreements and the Petroleum Act, 2013.
UNOC is mandated to hold and manage 15% State participating interest in the TILENGA Project. The Company is currently negotiating the back-in into the Joint Operating Agreements (JOAs) that is required to allow for the State Participation in the TILENGA Project. Signing of the JOA will enable UNOC to take an active part in project investment decision making through the JV Partners' Operating Committee Meetings, including sanctioning of work programs, budgets, contracts and expenditures.
Overall, the developments in the Oil and Gas sub-sector and particularly the TILENGA project clearly indicate beneficial progress in decision-making on vital aspects required to enable realization of key milestones towards attainment of first oil in Uganda.
By Edward Ssekika, Robert Mwesigye & Oil in Uganda Correspondent in