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Oil road unlocks opportunities for Kingfisher residents

CNOOC has been transporting most of its equipment using this jetty on Lake Albert

CNOOC has been transporting most of its equipment to the Kingfisher area using this jetty on Lake Albert, a much more costlier option.

Residents of Kyangwali sub-county in Hoima district are thrilled at what may be the single most important benefit they will ever get from oil: a new road that will link them to the Lake Albert shores in the oil-rich Buhuka parish, saving them from a torturous back-breaking escarpment.

The China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) was awarded a production license for the ‘Kingfisher Development Area’ in September last year, and the construction of an access road was part of the deal.

Now construction of the fifteen kilometre road has started, and residents are already excited at the prospect of accessing the fishing villages down the escarpment in the low lands with ease, without the dreaded 1.7 kilometre trek up or down the steep rocky terrain.

According to Ernest Rubondo, the Commissioner for the Petroleum Exploration Production Development (PEPD), the road will begin from Ikamiro village at the top of the escarpment, to Bungoma Village in Buhuka parish where the Kingfisher Development Area surface facilities are being established.

“Previously Buhuka was only accessed by either using a boat from Mbegu landing site in Hoima or from Ntoroko district and both the journeys would take an average of two hours,” he said in an e-mail to Oil in Uganda.

“Some locals have had to use a footpath averaging  to a kilometre to access areas above the escarpment. Other people would only access Kingfisher field by water since vehicles cannot descend or ascend the sharp corners,” he added.

Mr. Rubondo revealed that the project, which will also include the construction of all infield roads linking the planned oil facilities at Kingfisher, will cost about 20 million dollars (50 billion shillings).

The development is being undertaken by the China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC).

New opportunities

The Kyangwali sub-county chairman, Omuhereza Rwemera Mazirane, believes the new road will ease the movement of goods and services in the area.

“The tarmacked road will give us opportunity to trade, access better services and attract investors” he said.

The development of the Kingfisher field is also expected to provide over 400 jobs to Ugandans.

The Kingfisher Development Area is located on the Southern end of Lake Albert in a sparsely populated community that is largely comprised of fishermen and herdsmen.

CNOOC estimates that the field holds an estimated 635 million barrels of oil, of which about 196 million barrels can be recovered. The anticipated peak production is 40,000 barrels of oil per day.

“There will be 27 production wells and 13 injection wells,” said the Company’s Corporate Affairs Manager, Chai Wei.

Injection wells are used to pump water into the oil field underground to stimulate the oil to flow to the surface.

CNOOC also plans to set up a Central Processing Facility (CPF) in Buhuka parish to separate impurities from the crude oil.

“From the CPF, crude oil will be pumped by pipeline to Kabaale (to the refinery),” explained CNOOC’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Manager, Zakalia Lubega.

Fishermen at Nsonga landing site in Kyangwali cast their nets. They are anxious that oil operations in the area may limit their access to some parts of the lake.

Fishermen at Nsonga landing site in Kyangwali cast their nets. They are anxious that oil operations in the area may limit their access to some parts of the lake.

Environmental concerns

Communities in the area are concerned about the likely impact of the oil activities on their livelihoods, especially their income from fishing.

“Our worry is if we shall continue fishing when oil production begins. We worry because we hear oil is beneath this lake,” says Bamuturaki Musinguzi, a member of the Bungoma Beach Management Unit.

Many other fishermen fear that when commercial production starts, they could be stopped from accessing some parts of the lake especially those near oil installations.

But CNOOC maintains that it will protect the “health, safety and security” of the communities and that a grievance resolution mechanism has been developed in the event of “unforeseen negative impacts” from the project.

The Environmental Impact Assessment Report for the development has already been approved by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).

Luteganda Erinya at the construction site of a new  police station. He says that the

Luteganda Erinya at the construction site of a new police station that is being set up to boost security in the area.

Smooth compensation

Unlike some of their counterparts in Kabaale parish where the refinery will be constructed, residents here say they are happy with the compensation they received for their land and property to make way for the project.

Most of them concur that the road and the oil facilities will greatly benefit them too.

“They did not give me a lot of money but am not complaining because these developments are for the good of the country,” says 64-year-old Luteganda Erinya, whose 300 acres of land will be traversed by the new road. “The only problem we are having is the noise from the graders, otherwise we are okay.”

According to CNOOC’s Lubega, all the respective land owners have been paid and only four families will be resettled in a place of their choice.

The road is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Report by Beatrice Ongode, additional reporting by special correspondent