Chinese oil company enters Uganda for country’s commercial oil production

Chinese oil giant China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) has taken China’s latest oil drilling technologies and equipment to Uganda, and followed the requirement of green growth and sustainable development in assisting its partners to construct well pads for the East African country’s first project of commercial production of oil.

Discovered in Uganda’s western region in 2006, the Kingfisher oil field in the Lake Albert area covers an area of 1,518 square kilometers and has proven geological reserves of over 6 billion barrels. It is scheduled to be operational in early 2025.

A set of Chinese equipment tailored to the needs of the Ugandan oil field arrived at the construction site in early October after more than two months’ transport by sea.

“It took about seven months to produce the equipment. But we have spent a total of ten years on the project [of developing the equipment],” Jin Liping, manager for drilling project with CNOOC’s Uganda branch.

Lake Albert is one of the most important freshwater lakes in the upper reaches of the Nile. To avoid the risks of oil spills while extracting oil from the lake, Jin and his team decided to build an onshore drilling platform, instead of an offshore one.

The equipment that just arrived is a land rig equipped with China’s self-developed rotary steering system, which ensures that the drill pipe can go from the land surface to the bottom of the lake and carry out slant drilling.

“The equipment, manufactured after ten years of research and development has broken Western monopoly. It is a pride of China,” Jin said.

According to Jin, the machine is also equipped with leading technologies such as noise reduction, and zero discharge systems.

The noise control system ensures residents and livestock in eight villages around the field won’t be disturbed, and the zero discharge system can recover all the gases produced in the oil extraction process and convert them into electricity to help address the country’s power shortage, Jin said.

“The noise in a park is about 45 decibels, and that [in the well pad] will be around 60 decibels with this technology applied,” Jin said.

The Chinese contractor is running an apprenticeship program in the oil field which allocates one Chinese technician for one local employee on skills training. It has greatly improved the professional skills of local workers.

Jin’s apprentice Lemac has developed into a qualified drilling engineer.

“[The project has] brought us all together that we can be one team, one family, that we can all work towards the goal. And it’s going to give us so many jobs, so much infrastructure, so much technical skills,” Lemac said.

“I’m proud of training Uganda’s first batch of professionals in the oil industry, and of having apprentices and friends in Uganda. We are actively following the Belt and Road Initiative, and working with Ugandans and local workers to learn more and improve ourselves to contribute to the sustainable development of Africa. Meanwhile, we have also enhanced the protection of lakes, mountains and the environment,” Jin said.

The construction and operation of the oil field will bring more than 20,000 jobs and new development opportunities to Uganda, a country that relies on traditional agriculture and livestock as its main economic sources, and will make it an important crude oil producer in East Africa.

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