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Ngassa oil block drilling resumes

Nigerian firm Oranto Petroleum Limited (OPL) has kicked-off open dialogues with stakeholders as it moves to start drilling its Ngassa Exploration block on Lake Albert in Hoima district.

During a stakeholders engagement at HB Hotel in Hoima City on November 24, Abdu Byakagaba, the OPL General Manager, said engagements which are part of conditions in the license, helps them to understand community needs and adhere to them during the drilling and to ensure a win-win situation.

He said the-engagements are also meant to identify opportunities, health and safety and environmental regulations and how fishing activities will be managed.

Ngassa block which was initially part of Exploration Area Two (EA2) licensed to Tullow Oil, is covered with good quality 2D and 3D seismic data acquired between 2003 and 2008.

The block is immediately north of the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) Uganda Limited operated Kingfisher field, which is accessed in part through the Kaiso-Tonya road.

Based on limited data that was acquired at that time, Ngassa was relinquished to the government since they needed more time to acquire more data to understand the field but the exploration license had expired.

Government, therefore, considered Ngassa block for licensing during the first open bidding licensing round.

OPL was awarded a license as part of an approved work plan by the Petroleum Authority of Uganda as the regulator in 2017.

The four-year long license had each two-year stratigraphic operations for Shallow Play and Deep Play areas in the block. The first expired in October 2019 and was renewed the same year.

This allowed the company to reprocess existing seismic data, acquire new seismic data, geophysical, geological and feasibility studies for drilling.

Byakagaba said the two year license which has been extended following COVID-19 disruptions in 2020, necessitates that they have to drill at least one exploration well before 2023.

Byakagaba added that based on the information and the sensitivity of the block, they plan to drill offshore but using the best technology and practices to ensure minimal environmental footprint to the lake.

Byakagaba said OPL has to do an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) which will have to be approved by National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) before the start of any activity. The ESIA, he said, identifies all risks and possible mitigation measures.

Meanwhile, residents expressed fears that their drilling activities might cause pollution of the water due to oil spills, make fishing impossible and ruin lives of people who derive their livelihood from the lake.

Responding to the concerns he said they would not disrupt the entire lake but rather a small portion of it but with strict adherence to internationally approved best practices.

Byakagaba said the stage they are on will determine the quality and quantity of oil beneath and inform next production phases.

Vaita Insingoma, the Executive Director for Kitara Development Initiative (KITADI) which organised the stakeholders’ engagement in partnership with OPL, urged residents to cooperate with the oil firm as it executes its mandate and prepare enough to tap business opportunities it would present.

Sam Mugisa, the social affairs coordinator at petroleum authority of Uganda, said with drilling there are a myriad of opportunities including, jobs and supply of goods and services.

“Build your capacity now and forever to also benefit from business opportunities in the entire sector under national content,” Mugisa added.

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