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Total to Bid for More Uganda Exploration Blocks

Source: Reuters 9/29/2012, Location: Africa

French oil firm Total SA will be bidding for more exploration blocks in Uganda when the country conducts a new licensing round, a company executive said. Total entered the east African nation's burgeoning petroleum industry early this year after it took a third of British explorer Tullow Oil's exploration assets in the country. China's CNOOC also bought a third of the assets.

Loic Laurandel, general manager of Total's Uganda unit, told reporters the company expected Uganda to produce its first oil in 2017. The government expects production sooner. He said Uganda needed both a refinery of about 30,000 barrels per day to supply fuel products to the local market and an export pipeline to support a peak crude production of 200-230,000 barrels per day.

"We think in three to four years after commencement of production around 2017 we'll reach that peak production… so that should be around 2020 or 2021 thereabouts," Laurandel said. Uganda discovered hydro carbon deposits in the Albertine rift basin along its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006. The government estimates reserves at 3.5 billion barrels.

Only 40 percent of the basin has been explored and the government intends to invite bids for hundreds of square kilometres of new exploration blocks after parliament has passed proposed oil laws, expected by the end of this year. "The road infrastructure in Uganda needs to be upgraded over the next two years to allow for importation of huge equipment for the implementation of basin development plan," Laurandel said. Total, which operates block 1 on the northern tip of Lake Albert, says it will spend about $650 million in Uganda on exploration and appraisal drilling and seismic data acquisition by the end of next year.

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