How much oil (and gas) does Uganda have, and where is it?
The oil fields found so far are estimated to contain deposits of around 2.5 billion barrels of oil. It is unlikely that all of this will be extracted because as an oil well empties it becomes harder—and therefore uneconomic—to pump out the remainder. The government has recently said that 1 billion barrels can be extracted from what has been discovered to date, but it is possible that more discoveries will be made in future. The oil found so far lies in the Albertine Graben—an area about 500 kilometres long and up to 45 kilometres wide, forming Uganda’s western border with the DRC and stretching from Lake Edward in the south to the border with South Sudan in it the north. The ‘graben’—meaning a depressed crust of the earth’s surface lying between two geological fault lines—has been the most intensively surveyed and prospected of Uganda’s sedimentary basins.
Other basins that may have oil deposits are the Hoima basin (to the east of Lake Albert), the Lake Kyoga basin (further east, in the centre of the country), and the Kadam-Moroto basin, still further east, in the Karamoja sub-region. According to the government Petroleum Exploration and Production Department, “The area presently tested represents less than 30% of the total area with the potential for petroleum production in the country, hence the potential for additional reserves in the country.
The Albertine Graben has long been thought to have the best oil potential but the Graben itself has not yet been thoroughly explored. This, and the existence of other, even less explored basins, has prompted speculation that Uganda’s eventual reserves may amount to 6 billion barrels
To put Uganda’s oil reserve figures in a wider context, the world’s most oil-rich state, Saudi Arabia, still has 263 billion barrels of ‘proven’ reserves. Libya has 46 billion, Nigeria 37 billion, Angola 9.5 billion. One or two billion barrels therefore represent a big find for Uganda—enough, certainly, to supply domestic needs for at least 20 years while selling a significant surplus overseas—but it is not such a big find for the world beyond. (The world as a whole consumes one billion barrels of oil every fortnight.)