Unoc benchmarking with external peers for best performance – Wapakhabulo

The Uganda National Oil Company chief executive, Josephine Wapakhabulo, has allayed fears that the oil company is trying to ‘bite more than it can chew’ with the dozen capital-intensive upstream and midstream projects on its to-do list.

Ms Wapakabulo, while speaking at a media workshop in Kampala on Wednesday, likened Unoc’s experience to that of “the last born in a family” that has to learn from its elder siblings. She said UNOC is currently benchmarking with national oil companies elsewhere, especially in Africa.

“We are really careful, and trying to filter what we really do,” Dr Wapakabulo said.

Some of the capital-intensive projects Unoc is participating in include the proposed oil refinery, which is expected to cost $3bn, the East African Crude Oil Export Pipeline with a capital expenditure of $3.5b, the Kabaaale Industrial Park in Hoima which will accommodate the refinery and its attendant infrastructure, and the Kampala Storage terminal for refined petroleum products.

Above all, Ms Wapakabulo said they are undertaking “a systematic approach” to ensure they start with projects “where we think have an edge in the short run.”

She said the company is in constant discussions with Bank of Uganda and the finance ministry about funding, while cognizant of the current public debt stock.

UNOC is mandated to handle the government’s commercial interests in the oil sector under the Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Act, 2013, .

The oil company was incorporated in 2015 under the Companies Act and is owned by the government through the ministries of energy and finance with a 51% and 49% shareholding, respectively. Ms Wapakhabulo was appointed as chief executive in June 2016 in a process that saw the company become operational.

The company currently has 46 staff members but is currently recruiting more.

UNOC also has two subsidiaries, the Uganda Refinery Holding Company, through which Uganda’s stake in the oil refinery will be carried and the Uganda National Pipeline Company, which will manage Uganda’s stake in the oil pipeline.

Uganda’s stakes in the refinery and the pipeline were capped at $500m and $200m respectively at Unoc’s annual general meeting last November.

John Bosco Habumugisha, the National Pipeline Company’s general manager revealed that the technical front-end engineering designs for the pipeline were completed last December and a report submitted to the Petroleum Authority, the regulatory body. The report is currently under review, he said.

The general manager at the Uganda Refinery Holding Company, Michael Mugerwa, also revealed that Saipem, the Italian company and engineering, procurement, and construction contractor in the Albertine Graben Refinery Consortium (AGRC), a special purpose vehicle which was awarded the refinery tender, has commenced FEED studies that will take 5 months.