By Martin Kaahwa
TESTING of oil at Kasemene, one of the potentially large oil wells in the western district of Bulisa, has started.
Jim Mcgilvary, a senior oil engineer, on Wednesday said Uganda had the capacity to join the class of super oil-producing countries.
â€œBut let us test the oil fields and get information so we know what we have and how best to harvest it,â€ said Mcgilvary at the beginning of the testing exercise.
The first oil burning process was carried out at the Waraga 1 oil well in Kaiso-Tonya, Buseruka, Hoima district in June 2006 by Australian firm Hardman. The tests confirmed commercial quantity and quality of oil. However, Hardman sold its exploration rights to Tullow Oil.
Tullow has sub-contracted Schlumberger, a French-American company, to carry out the oil testing at Kasemene in Kakindo village. The next tests will be done at Kigogole in Ngwedo village.
Mcgilvary said the findings would be given to the Government to determine how to develop and produce the oil.
Frans Oosthuizen, the project engineer of Schlumberger, said the testing was aimed at establishing the quantity and quality of the oil and determine the best way to get it from underneath.
â€œWe will measure the pressure needed to get it from underneath and push it through the pipes,â€ he said. If the oil is too thick, he said, heat would be applied to make it lighter so it moves fast.
Tullow Oil environment officer Linda Biribonwa said they had received permission from NEMA, the national environment watchdog, to carry out the exercise.
She said because of too much heat, gases and too much noise in the process, Tullow had requested for special permission from NEMA to carry out the exercise.
â€œWe are also using a high-powered Evergreen burner to burn the oil and gases to ensure the people and environment are protected,â€ she said.
As a measure, about 92 families living within a radius of 300 metres from the oil wells were temporarily relocated. Tullow paid each household sh300,000 per day as inconvenience fee. The testing will last about seven days.
â€œWe asked about 51 families settling near Kasemene and 41 near Kigogole to relocate for the days the testing is going on as a precautionary measure,â€ Jane Nyendwoha, the community liaison officer, said.
Bulisa district chairperson Fred Lukumu commended Tullow for compensating the families.
The Government recently announced postponement of the much-anticipated early production scheme of heavy fuel oils.
The delay was caused by the need to move the site of the mini-refinery from the Kabwoya wildlife reserve following protests from environmentalists. Production is now expected to kick off in the first quarter of 2010.
Reports recently said Uganda might emerge as one of the 50 top oil producers in the world following discovery of huge reserves.
Brian Smith, Heritage Oilâ€™s vice-president, recently said Buffalo-Giraffe complex on Block 1 in the Lake Albert basin was the largest onshore oil field in sub-Saharan Africa discovered in the last 20 years.
Heritage Oil is working with partner Tullow Oil to put the discovery on a fast track.
â€œSufficient oil reserves have been discovered in the Albert basin to exceed the commercial threshold for development,â€ Smith said.
Alltogether oil and gas has been discovered in 12 locations in the Albertine graben. They include Turako, Mputa, Waraga, Nzizi, Kajubirizi (Kingfisher), Taitai, Ngege, Kasamene, Kigogole, Ngiri (Warthog), Jobi (Buffalo) and Rii (Giraffe).
The oil wells have been named according to particular species of animals, birds or fish found in the area. Some of the oil found has not yet been tested.