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Oil waste: Just how much should Uganda expect?

Tullow Uganda's Environment czar, Phillipe Bouzet (Photo: Beatrice Ongode)

Tullow Uganda’s Environment Manager, Phillipe Bouzet (Photo: Beatrice Ongode)

About 300,000 tonnes of drilling waste will be produced when oil production starts, Tullow Uganda’s Environmental Manager, Philippe Bouzet, has revealed.

Speaking to Oil in Uganda at the side lines of an environmental conference in Kampala yesterday, Mr. Bouzet said that about 600 wells will be drilled when oil production starts, with each well producing different amounts of waste depending on its depth.

He explained that an oil well can produce an average of 200-300 cubic metres of waste which translates into 200-300,000 tonnes for the 600 wells.

“Exploration is now finished and we have drilled about 70 to 80 wells in the Albertine region,” he told Oil in Uganda, adding that about 60,000 tonnes of drilling waste has already been generated from the three oil blocks.

But some industry reports indicate that around 0.37 kg of drilling waste is generated for every barrel of oil produced, implying that if Uganda produces the current recoverable 1.4 billion barrels of oil over the next 20 or so years, at least 500,000 tonnes of waste will be produced.

Oil drilling wastes are composed of the mud and rock that is removed as a well is drilled, together with chemical additives that are poured down the well to assist the drilling. Some of the rocks at the bottom of the well are thickly coated in oil, and to this are added filings from wear and tear on the drill bits as they cut through solid rock.

Drilling mud and water pumped into the well in order to force out the oil during the production stage will also end up as waste.

Uganda’s drilling waste is presently being stored at temporary designated sites in Nwoya, Hoima and Buliisa Districts, but permanent waste disposal facilities are being developed in the Albertine.

The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has been criticised for lacking dequate resources to monitor the oil and gas industry but the Agency’s Head, Tom Okurut, maintains they have what it takes to do the job.

“We want to assure the public that even when we start production, there is nothing to fear,” says Okurut.

Report by Beatrice Ongode

editor@oilinuganda.org