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Oil and Gas to play a significant role in the energy transition of Uganda- NEMA


The Executive Director of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) Dr. Barirega Akankwasa and Mr. Isaac Ntujju, Head of oil and gas at NEMA spoke to Elison
Karuhanga on twitter spaces on 31st July 2022 about the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report for all the oil and gas projects: King Fisher, Tilenga and East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).

In the 90 Days of Oil and Gas, Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum features part of the conversation verbatim.

How prepared is Uganda to mitigate and manage potential risks from the oil and gas industry?
Isaac: We believe we have built enough capacity as a country. We have benchmarked and watched those who have gotten it right like Norway and we have also seen those who have
struggled. We are above 80% ready for this industry. Each project that shall be implemented regarding oil and gas in Uganda has been subjected to ESIA.
These are comprehensive studies done by experts, reviewed by experts, and we even enlisted international help where we needed it.
Dr. Barirega: We revised the NEMA Act 2019, and revised regulations to deal with oil and gas waste management and oil spill contingency management. We continue to train staff so we can have adequate capacity, and equipment to monitor and ensure that the activities of oil and development do not endanger our environment and our social fabric.

What environmental studies have been done and what do they entail?
Dr. Barirega: With support from our partners and national and international experts, the entire landscape was looked at in a holistic way- what we call strategic environment assessment. For example, if you are looking at oil and gas activities to be centered in the Albertine Graben, what other things are there, and can the oil and gas industry co-exist with these other things? what are the implications of our policies, plans, and land use? From the landscape point of view, we do sensitivity mapping – identifying ecologically sensitive areas, wetlands, wildlife breeding areas, wildlife water points, migratory corridors, lake shores, basins, rivers, and critical social issues. Uganda did the sensitivity mapping of the Albertine Graben and identified all sensitive aspects from ecological and social points of view.

Once we have identified those sensitive systems, then we apply the mitigation hierarchy where you start by avoiding what you can avoid, because they are very sensitive. The entire graben is almost critically sensitive and has endangered wildlife species, critical water systems, wetlands, and other habitats.
We have a sensitivity Atlas for the Albertine Graben which can be accessed on our website. We applied mitigation hierarchy and ensured that the development of the oil and gas industry does not threaten those critical ecosystems through avoidance. Once you have avoided those sensitive areas then you go for reduction of impacts.
Even in the less sensitive sites that you are working in, you must reduce impacts by applying the best technologies and best implementation options.

For example, instead of conventional drilling of oil and gas, we will use directional drilling technology which is more expensive but will help protect our ecosystems. After oil and gas activities are gone, we shall still need this landscape for environmental and social services like tourism, biodiversity conservation, and other attendant industries.

I can assure you these processes have been inclusive, consultative, and involved public hearings.

Isaac: The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has worked closely with NEMA to develop guidelines for oil and gas activities in the protected areas. Protected areas have separate sensitivity Atlases for Murchison Falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park and Tooro Semliki National Parks.

There are complaints that ESIA has been driven by oil companies. Take us through what the process was to clear doubts.

Dr. Barirega: It is not true that the ESIA was influenced by the developers.
They play no role in decision-making, but they do play roles in information provision.
ESIA is a legal process under NEMA Act but there are also specific national regulations of ESIA. It starts with screening in which a project goes through the first level of assessment.
Then the scoping in which you identify key processes that the study should take.
NEMA advises the developer on key things not to miss in the study.
Before terms of reference are approved, NEMA must be satisfied that the site is suitable for the project.

This is done consultatively with lead agencies, affected communities, local government, and residents near the project.

After approval, then the study is undertaken by independent consultants who are ESIA
practitioners licensed by NEMA. They conduct the study and come up with a report which they submit to NEMA. Then NEMA reviews to confirm that all the ESIA have been correctly identified. Once NEMA is satisfied with the report, it grants approval. But for sensitive projects like oil and gas, we even go ahead to involve the public through notices and
hearings. EACOP has gone through hearing, the highest and most rigorous form of hearing in a transparent process.

We issue certificates that have conditions based on impacts identified during the ESIA studies processes. NEMA is now doing post-ESIA monitoring and annual environment audit to plug in missing issues during the review process. We can confirm that we are satisfied with the level of environmental compliance. In Murchison where exploration took place, the environment has fully recovered. That does not mean that oil and gas activities do not have impacts- oil and gas can have severe environmental and social impacts and we are aware of this. That is why we are
continuously building our capacity to effectively monitor the work of the developers so that
we get our oil from the ground, but do not endanger our land, air, water, and our economy.

How many public hearings did you do and how many people attended?
Isaac: Tilenga had 2 hearings. In Buliisa about 7400 participants attended while Nwoya had 4,000 participants.
EACOP had three hearings. Each hearing had an average of 5,000 people. We had a dialogue with Tanzania Petroleum Corporation since EACOP is a cross-border project.
King Fisher had 2 hearings. Hearings were structured in a manner that allowed Project Affected person opportunities to speak.

We have done a good job in transparency. We are confident the project will be implemented in a manner that everybody will be impressed with. When we started exploration activities, everybody was alarmed, but when we completed, everybody was impressed. We are on the right track.

EACOP critics say it goes through Lake Victoria or Lake Victoria Basin and so it puts the lives of 40 million people at risk, and that it was wrong to approve ESIA:
Dr. Barirega: EACOP covers 1, 443km Hoima to Tanga. It is a linear project, traversing places and meeting certain eco-systems.
Through the process of sensitivity mapping as I earlier explained, and through the process of applying mitigation hierarchy- avoidance, mitigation, offset, the critical ecosystem was identified, and by the time the route was chosen very many factors had already been taken into consideration.
EACOP traverses 10 districts. I want to confirm to you that all measures were taken to avoid the pipeline crossing Lake Victoria. There is no point along the pipeline route where it crosses Lake Victoria. From Hoima to the Western side of Lake Victoria to Tanzania along the rift valley and to Tanzania port in the Indian ocean.

Yes. The pipeline passes through Lake Victoria Basin. Entire Kampala is in the Lake Victoria Basin – Lake Victoria Basin includes an entire catchment area there is no way you can avoid the pipeline which is linear not to cross through the Lake Victoria Basin.

Apart from Lake Victoria, there have been talks about rivers. That EACOP will go through 230 rivers?

Dr. Barirega: When you have a linear infrastructure like a road or railway, you cannot entirely eliminate the crossing of rivers. EACOP for example crosses 4 major rivers: River Kafu, River Nabaga, River Katonga and River Kibaale. We are aware that there is a risk and adequate mitigation measures have been put in place including provisions to ensure that the pipeline is built with protection- meaning that there will be no risks of corrosion.
There are timely technological notifications of any spill and timely responses to minimize any impact. There is going to be a vertical directional routing of the pipeline when they cross the rivers. The pipeline will be at the base of the rivers ( it will pass beneath the rivers) so even when there is leakage, it will go below the river bed- the pipeline will be buried below the river bed. It is not true that 230 rivers have been crossed but it is true that it crosses some rivers and it is also true that it has potential environmental impacts in case of spillage.

How have we protected the water sources of the people?
Dr. Barirega: 
Water sources have been protected by inherent designs that have been put in the pipeline and most of the projects related to oil in Uganda.

What is the actual carbon footprint of this project?
Dr. Barirega: The carbon footprint from EACOP is very minimal because we are not burning the fuel, we are just transporting it, maybe the technology of heating the pipeline could impact the atmosphere.
Our emission levels as a country or even in Africa are negligible compared to big emitters like the USA, Russia China, and Europe. Our emissions are very insignificant in terms of contribution to emissions.
Nonetheless, we do not want to take bad examples of the big emitters, we want to start the energy transition. Oil and gas will play a very significant role in the energy transition of Uganda; It will provide much-needed resources to fund energy transition, provide an immediate transition from biomass energy to LPG for cooking and reduce pressure very significantly on our forests.
When we reduce pressure on our forests, then we are talking about our ecological footprint.

What are the social impacts on the communities?
Dr. Barirega: When we are assessing a project, we do not restrict ourselves to the ecological impacts only. We also assess social impacts. EACOP was subjected to ESIA which includes, cultural sites, and displacement of people from their homes.
A Resettlement Action Plan for EACOP was done and compensation values were generated according to the prevailing market values.
There is a legal framework for compensation.

Isaac: The principle is to leave project-affected persons in better standing than were found.
We must ensure that it is sustainable. Authorities have tried to ensure that these compensations are aligned with World Bank and International Finance Corporation performance standards.

What negative environmental incidences have happened by far?
Dr. Barirega:  Some of the impacts include dust during the construction phase. At production Wells, there is land taken and that reduces the habitat for animals. But we are in discussions with the government to implement biodiversity offset mechanisms, to ensure setting aside more land for conservation to compensate for land that will be taken by oil wells. There is also an increase in traffic because of more activities in these areas. There is
local inflation. 
The cost of local goods has gone up but is good for the economy because many enterprises have been attracted there. We have seen both positive and negative environmental and social impacts, but all are manageable. Environmental impacts shall be seen when we start using our LPG for cooking.


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