TotalEnergies seeks licence to produce gas at Tilenga

A Tilenga oil project rig in Buliisa District. (Image: File)

TotalEnergies EP Uganda has informed the Government of Uganda that it plans to produce Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) at the Tilenga Development Area in the Albertine Graben.

LPG is a highly versatile energy source and can be used in a wide range of applications such as water and space heating, cooking as well as an alternative transport fuel.

The oil giant wrote to the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development at the end of last month asking for a licence to construct the Tilenga LPG facility.

According to the documents, TotalEnergies EP Uganda (TEPU) which is part of the French super-major TotalEnergies, plans to produce 80,000 tonnes of LPG per year.

TEPU has been under watch by environmental activists who had expressed fear that it planned to flare the gas when production begins at its fields based in Buliisa and Nwoya districts.

Even before the Final Investment Decision (FID), TEPU had promised that there would be zero routine gas flaring in Uganda. Flaring and venting occur when oil field operators opt to burn associated gas that accompanies oil production or simply release it to the atmosphere rather than to build the equipment and pipelines to capture it.

Gas flaring contributes to climate change by releasing millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. The government of Uganda had equally made it clear that no flaring would be allowed at the Kingfisher Development Area operated by CNOOC Uganda in Kikuube district and at the Tilenga Development Area operated by TEPU in Buliisa and Nwoya districts.

Gas conversion is one of the operations in the Petroleum (Refining, Conversion, Transmission and Midstream Storage Act 2013.

The government required the upstream licensees including TEPU and CNOOC Uganda to carry out studies to determine the optimal utilisation of any excess associated gas realised after meeting the internal requirements.

The studies recommended LPG recovery from excess associated gas. The recovered LPG will be used to meet local and regional demand.

The Minister of Energy is required by law to issue a licence for the construction and operation of gas conversion facilities in the fields. The process of the award of the licence includes the public inspection of the documents submitted by the planned operator of the conversion facilities.

Ms Ruth Nankabirwa, the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, at the beginning of this month as required by the law published a legal notice calling for the public or directly affected parties and local governments in areas where the Tilenga petroleum gas facility is to be located to inspect documents submitted by TotalEnergies EP Uganda.

The law provides that the affected parties can object to the granting of the licence to construct the facility. The hearing in the TotalEnergies EP Uganda application is open up to the end of February.

Ms Nankabirwa’s legal notice came just a week after she had granted construction and operation licences to CNOOC Uganda Limited to put up a LPG facility as part of the Central Processing Facility (CPF) as part of the CPF at Kingfisher oil fields in Kikuube district.

In their message, CNOOC Uganda Limited said that the award of the licence marked what it described as a major milestone in the journey to producing energy for Uganda and is in line with their vision of “Energy for a better future”.

On the other hand, the minister disclosed that the grant of the licence was based on a common understanding of the strategy for the utilisation of excess gas from the oil fields.

“As you are aware, in addition to the oil resources, Uganda has gas that is estimated at 500 billion cubic feet. This raw gas is expected to be produced along with the crude oil. Under the laws of Uganda and best practice, there will be no flaring or venting of the gas,” Ms Nankabirwa said.

According to her, putting to use some of the oil industry by-products such as LPG shall be critical in rescuing the country’s forest cover by getting millions of Ugandans off wood charcoal for cooking, thereby contributing to a more sustainable environment.

“Africa’s forest cover acts as a carbon sink. To capture emissions from wherever they are coming from. So, we need to be given time while we are doing reforestation,” Ms Nankabirwa said as she defended why Uganda and Africa should continue using LPG in cooking.

Mr Stephen Enach, the Manager of Refining, Gas Processing and Utilisation at the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU), has in the past indicated that Uganda will produce 100,000kg of LPG annually at the peak of commercial oil production from the Albertine Graben.

He indicate that the discovery of commercially viable oil and gas deposits in Uganda presents a great opportunity to further improve the state of the energy sector in the region and Uganda in particular.

“As per the ongoing engineering design studies, the Refinery Project in Hoima is projected to produce LPG in its product slate. In total, the three projects including the Tilenga Project Area, Kingfisher Development Area and the Refinery are projected to produce about 330,000 tonnes/year of LPG at peak,” Mr Enach said.

The International Energy Agency (IEA0 LPG remains the primary solution to deliver clean cooking access representing nearly half of the households gaining access by 2030.

Today, 2.3 billion people worldwide – nearly one third of the global population still cook their meals over open fires or on basic stoves, breathing in harmful smoke released from burning coal, charcoal, firewood, agricultural wastes and animal dung.

These practices can still be found in 128 countries today where households do not have the tools or means to reliably cook meals using clean burning fuels.

Even the simplest, widely available cooking devices could improve this situation including devices like camp stoves using LPG and electric hotplates.

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