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The hunt for oil in Uganda dates back to the early 1920’s when significant oil exploration was done by E.J.Wayland, a government geologist who documented substantial amounts of hydrocarbons in the Albertine Graben. This discovery was later to be followed by the first ever drilling of wells in 1938, in which some hydrocarbons were encountered, but no testing was done on this new discovery. However the hunt did not stop there as later on in the 1940’s and 1950’s further exploration was carried out and several shallow wells were drilled mainly for stratographic purposes. Despite having vivid signs of the country acquiring its newly found wealth, Uganda was affected by World War II. The war had an adverse impact on the oil discovery; its impact was greatly felt as the next sound of oil in Uganda was not going to occur till the early 1980s, which saw the acquisition of aeromagnetic data across the entire Graben region.
The aeromagnetic surveys taken during 1983 and 1992 produced a ray of hope. They were able to identify five sedimentary basins in the country. These were; the Albertine Graben, Lake Kyoga basin, Hoima basin, Lake Wamala basin and the Moroto-Kadam basin. These aeromagnetic surveys were to later be followed by ground surveys; these went on to show the most prospective sedimentary basin to date as the Albertine Graben.
The Albertine Graben in which oil has been discovered in Uganda is located in the western part of the country, mainly in Masindi, Kibale and Hoima district around Lake Albert which forms the northernmost part of the western arm of the East African Rift Valley. It is situated at the Uganda and Congo border further stretching to the border with Sudan.
According to the petroleum geologists, the Albertine Graben is greatly enriched with oil. They assert that the Maputa and Waraga oil fields have approximately 100 to 400 million barrels of oil, whereas the Giraffe 1 is expected to total at least 400 million barrels of oil.
Paul Atherton, chief financial officer of Heritage Oil, stated that the wider field his company was developing, dubbed Buffalo-Giraffe, had several “billions of barrels of oil in place”, although it was unclear how much of this would be recoverable.
Additional exploration findings have estimated that there exists approximately 500 million barrels of oil at the kingfisher well in Hoima.
These oil discoveries have led the government of Uganda into signing contracts with international companies to exploit the oil. This has seen four out of the six exploration areas identified to have good potential for petroleum production in the country being licensed to international oil companies with the remaining areas awaiting licensing by government of the prospective applicants.
The companies that have been licensed to carry out the exploration in Uganda are: Heritage Oil and Gas ltd in partnership with Energy Africa (now Tullow oil), it was licensed on the 1st July 2004 and they are expected to carry out exploration activities on exploration area, 1 that is the Packwach basin.
The Northern Lake Albert basin was licensed to Hardman Petroleum Africa (pty) Ltd in partnership with Energy Africa Ltd (now Tullow Oil), licensed on the 8th October 2001. The southern Lake Albert basin was first licensed to Heritage Oil, but was later jointly licensed to Tullow and Heritage on the 8th September 2004.The Rhino camp basin was licensed to Neptune Petroleum (u) Ltd, on 27th September 2005.
The exploration companies that were licensed have made significant investment, and have moved forward in identifying specific areas for exploration. An evaluation of these places led to the discovery of petroleum in; Waraga, Nzizi, Mputa and Kaiso Tonya, (exploration area two). The Kingfisher prospect in exploration area 3A is being undertaken and flow testing of the shallow zones of this prospect has been carried out. The results indicate that the Kingfisher prospect also contains oil.
It’s expected that more discoveries are yet to be made given the expanse of the area yet to be tested for prospective development.
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