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Environment

  • Seismic Illustration Thumbnail

    Total pioneers ‘cable-less 3D seismic’ surveys in Uganda

    By Jean-Michel Enjolras

    What is a ‘seismic survey?’ Total E & P Uganda’s Director of Geosciences explains all—and says his company is doing all it can to minimise the environmental impacts. Read More

  • Ngara Waste Storage Site in Buliisa District operated by Tullow Oil Uganda.

    Oil waste: to bury or not to bury?

    Ngara Waste Storage Site in Buliisa District operated by Tullow Oil Uganda.

    Could drilling waste produced by Uganda’s oil wells be put to use in construction and agriculture rather than just being buried? 

    In theory, yes, writes Beatrice Ongode, citing examples from other countries; but in practice it will depend on whether it is economically viable to first treat and process the waste. Read More

  • Directions to oil wells in Buliisa District owned by Tullow Oil

    Insufficient funding limiting environmental monitoring

     

    Dr. Henry Aryamanya-Mugisha

    Dr. Henry Aryamanya-Mugisha is the former Executive Director of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), an institution he served for nearly 15 years until June 2011.

    He was at the helm of NEMA in 2006 when commercially viable quantities of oil were confirmed in Uganda, and spearheaded initial efforts to put measures in place to safeguard the environment amidst oil exploration and subsequent production.

    Speaking exclusively to Oil in Uganda’s Beatrice Ongode, Dr. Aryamanya advised government to protect the ecologically-sensitive oil-rich Albertine Region, or “be prepared to handle what is coming its way.”

    He disputes NEMA’s persistent claims that oil drilling waste in Uganda has been tested and confirmed non-hazardous, but sympathises with NEMA’s inability to fully exert its presence due to insufficient funding. Read More

  • Fisherman guts his catch on Lake Albert

    Is Uganda ready to handle oil waste?

    A Lake Albert fisherman guts his catch. The fishing sector  will be  one of the   casualities of poor oil waste management in the Albertine. (Photo: Thomas White)

    With the government estimating that Uganda’s Albertine Graben holds at least 3.5 billion barrels of oil, expectations of many Ugandans are high—but so too are fears of environmental damage.

    Other natural resources already generate revenue in the oil-rich region.  It is home to premier tourist destinations, including the Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls and Semiliki national parks. And, experts agree, it is also an ecologically ‘sensitive’ area.

    A major oil spill or a fire at an oil well could result in environmental catastrophe.  But, as well as fearing such a nightmare scenario, Ugandan environmentalists also worry about how the country will manage a predictable and certain result of oil production—the generation of large amounts of oil waste. Read More

  • Norwegian Report

    Environment is weakest link in Norwegian aid to Uganda, says report

    Seven years of ‘Oil for Development’ aid from Norway has significantly boosted the resource management capacity of Uganda’s Petroleum Exploration and Production Department (PEPD)—but environmental management lags far behind, with serious weaknesses in the National Environment Monitoring Authority (NEMA) and its partner agencies, according to a recent evaluation of the programme.

    PEPD has demonstrated “good leadership and coordination” of Norwegian aid and “effective internal organisational development,” the evaluation report observes.

    The Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development is also praised for “good leadership so far” and “good cooperation [with] subordinate institutions” on issues relating to tax and revenue management. Read More

  • Image: Rhino Camp youths

    Disappointed Rhino Camp locals still hope for oil

     

    Rhino Camp residents are eager for information about oil

    OYO VILLAGE, RHINO CAMP SUB-COUNTY, ARUA DISTRICT:  Three years ago, Neptune Petroleum drilled the 780 metre deep Avivi-1 exploration well on the outskirts of this village, in search of oil.  The well did not find any.  This was the second disappointment for Neptune, which held the exploration licence for the Rhino Camp basin, and had already sunk a dry well, Iti-1, in nearby Rigbo sub-county. After a third well, drilled last year, also proved dry, the company’s licence ran out, leaving it with nothing to show for an estimated US$ 50 million spent on the exploration effort. Read More

  • Image: Christmas turkey

    So you think you know about oil? And want to be a millionaire?

    For this young man, a bird on the shoulder is worth more than a barrel of oil in the bush (Photo: NY)

    The Oil in Uganda team extends warm, seasonal greetings to all our readers.  Also, to entertain you in between bouts of feasting, we have prepared a little quiz to test your general knowledge of oil  in Uganda and beyond.  Doing the quiz won’t, alas, make you a millionaire, but you may glean some interesting–and some shocking–facts. The answers to the following twenty questions appear at the end of the text—together with a ‘performance assessment’ depending on how many questions you answered correctly. Read More

  • Elephants are not fleeing oil—but pressure will grow, says expert

    An elephant mother and calf by the Nile in Murchison Falls National Park. The animals can detect vibrations from their peers’ footfalls at distances of up to 20 miles, according to a 2001 study in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (JASA). Which must make ‘seismic 3D’ testing rather jarring. (Photo: NY)

    An increase in reported cases of crop damage by elephants straying outside of Murchison Falls National Park is probably not due to oil exploration, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) country representative in Uganda, Dr. Alistair McNeilage.

    But, he stresses, wildlife management challenges will certainly grow as companies put in the infrastructure needed to extract the oil.

    “Lots of people have been saying that elephants are coming out of the park because they’ve been chased out by the oil,” McNeilage told Oil in Uganda.  “But if you look at the areas they’re coming from, it’s mainly on the north east side [of the park]. Those elephants don’t seem to be the same ones that are in the areas [in the west of the park] where the oil activities have been going on.” Read More

  • Image: Professor Jenik Radon

    “You have to go slow in order to go fast”

    Professor Jenik Radon

    Uganda should move carefully and without haste to develop its oil industry and wider economy.  Well crafted laws, with institutional checks and balances, are essential to govern the commercial aspects.  Revenues should be deposited overseas in hard currency accounts, with a portion saved for the future—because development cannot take place overnight, it needs to phased. Increased government spending should be tied to a comprehensive development plan.   Environmental, health and safety issues should be governed by regional laws that bind international oil companies to the same standards they would have to apply in their countries of incorporation—because otherwise they ‘won’t take it seriously.’

    So says Columbia University professor, scholar-activist and renowned extractives industries expert, Jenik Radon, who has been delivering a series of lectures at Makerere University.  Oil in Uganda caught up with him as he packed his bags to return to storm-buffeted New York City. Read More

  • Image: Buffalo in Murchison mud

    Wildlife–Uganda’s big tourist draw–begins to feel the strain of oil

    A buffalo cools off in the Murchison mud. Let’s hope that’s not drilling waste he’s wallowing in. (Photo: CM)

    More than a million tourists visited Uganda in 2011, bringing US$ 805 million in foreign exchange—the country’s biggest forex earner by a large margin. The Lonely Planet travel guide company has since named Uganda “top tourist destination for 2012.” But what has been the impact of the 16 oil exploration wells drilled inside Murchison Falls National Park, one of the main tourist attractions?  What is happening to the animals that the tourists flock to see?  Oil in Uganda visited Murchison to ask park staff and neighbouring communities, and also contacted tour operators who expressed concern for the future of their trade as the oil industry ramps up for production. Read More