Uganda issues license for construction of controversial oil pipeline

“The approval (of the license) is another sign to demonstrate the common commitment of the two countries to develop the EACOP project in a harmonized way”, Ugandan Information Minister Godfrey Kabbyanga told AFP on Friday.

The license was awarded to the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Company Ltd (EACOP) consortium, 62% owned by the French giant TotalEnergies, following the green light given by the Ugandan government on Monday.

TotalEnergies announced in February a 10 billion dollar investment agreement with Uganda, Tanzania and the Chinese company CNOOC, including the construction of a 1,443 kilometer oil pipeline (EACOP) linking the Lake Albert deposits, in western Uganda, to the Tanzanian coast on the Indian Ocean.

The project, however, has met with opposition from environmental activists and groups who believe it threatens the region’s fragile ecosystem and the people who live there.

Six NGOs sued TotalEnergies before the Paris court at the end of 2022, summoning the group to respect a law passed in 2017 which imposes on multinationals a “duty of care” about their activities around the world. The deliberation is expected on February 28.

Lake Albert, the natural border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, holds an estimated 6.5 billion barrels of crude oil, of which about 1.4 billion barrels are currently considered recoverable. The first drop of Ugandan oil is expected to flow in 2025, almost two decades after the reserves were discovered.

President Yoweri Museveni is due to attend the launch of drilling activities at the CNOOC-operated Kingfisher oil fields at Lake Albert on Tuesday. Mr. Museveni had described the project as a major economic source for this landlocked country, where many people live in poverty.

Uganda will host the 10th East Africa Petroleum Conference from May 9-11 to showcase East Africa as a “hotspot for hydrocarbon discoveries”, Mr. Kabbyanga said. The government is also undertaking studies to open other areas of the country to oil exploration, he added.

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