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Govt signs $4bn Hoima oil refinery agreement

The government of Uganda yesterday signed the contract for the construction of the $4 billion oil refinery, offering further clarity on how the country’s oil resources will be exploited, writes JEFF MBANGA. 

Minister of Energy and Mineral Development Irene Muloni signed the contract with the Albertine Graben Refinery Consortium, which is led by General Electric after more than one year of negotiations.

Officials signing the oil refinery agreement at State House

President Museveni presided over the closed-door event at State House. The signing of the contract ends a more-than-five-year struggle by Uganda’s government to get a company to invest in a refinery, whose return on investment has been questioned.

The refinery will be built under a public-private partnership, favouring the consortium with a 60 per cent shareholding while the government, through the national oil company, will retain the other 40 per cent.

Uganda is expected to invite East African states to buy into its 40 per cent stake. Tanzania had earlier committed to taking up about seven per cent of this stake. The consortium is made up of General Electric, Saipem from Italy, Yaatra Ventures from the United States of America and Intra-continent Asset Holdings.

The profile of the consortium looks quite weak and there are some doubts it can pull off a $4 billion project. There is little independent publicly-available information about Intra-continent Asset Holdings.

Questions are bound to be asked as to how this consortium will be able to attract the capital and expertise to build the refinery. However, in October, we reported how the Albertine Graben Refinery consortium had posted a $2 million commitment bond with government ahead of the signing of the Project Framework Agreement (PFA).

We also said that up to 70 per cent of the financing of the refinery will be through debt with the other 30 per cent coming in as equity from the project partners. In August, the government announced it had “agreed core project terms” for the refinery project.

We further noted that after the signing of the PFA, the consortium would be required to finance all pre-Final Investment Decision activities up to $100 million.

The pre-FID activities, according to the terms of the arrangement, include market studies, logistics studies, technology licensing, refinery config-uration studies, Environmental and Social Impact Assessment, and Front End Engineering Design.

These activities are expected to start after the signing of the contract. The major upstream companies operating in Uganda – Total, Tullow and Cnooc – had for long preferred a crude oil export pipeline because they felt the product had a more lucrative market abroad.

Uganda’s government thought otherwise, throwing its weight behind the construction of a refinery. Government commissioned a Swiss firm, Foster Wheeler, to come up with a report that offered pointers on how an oil refinery made economic sense, especially from the perspective of creating spin-off industries such as those that make bitumen, which is crucial in the construction industry.

Compromises needed to be made. To get the three oil companies to commit investments in the country, Uganda’s government agreed to the demands of having a crude oil pipeline. However, it never dropped its ambition of building a refinery.

The structure of having an oil refinery and a crude oil pipeline led to another important negotiation: how much crude would each take and which infrastructure would take the first call on the oil resources. Government settled for a 30,000-barrels- per-day refinery, which would later be ramped up to 60,000. The refinery, it was agreed, would take the first call.

Earlier figures showed that the crude pipeline would carry 120,000 barrels of oil per day, shooting up to 180,000 barrels only after the refinery’s demands had been met. Now, current figures show that the crude oil pipeline will carry about 212,000 barrels of oil per day.

jeff@observer.ug

Twitter:@jeff_mbanga

Comments

+4 #1 juwait kali 2018-04-11 13:58
Correction not with Government but with family country kidnappers.
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0 #2 Dembula 2018-04-11 16:47
I don't want to rain on the government's parade but surely if as the article says "The profile of the consortium looks quite weak and there are some doubts it can pull off a $4 billion project." is this not a case of creating foreseeable problems for future generations of Uganda?

How can the government go in (apparently) "half-cocked" for such an important venture? Am I missing something here?

Don't these government officials appreciate that a lot of investment and attracting capital is about confidence.

If the author of this article can reach the conclusion that these investors are potential unable to fulfil their role, how will other weight investors, who might be approached view them?

The mind boggles at this cheap and short-term approach to a project that requires long term investment and commitment.

With 60% ownership I can guarantee that this consortium will not only be calling the shost with regard to the production of the oil,but may ultimately start controlling government.
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0 #3 rubangakene 2018-04-11 19:43
Now that the primary stage has been signed, we must get able technical individuals from both sides to hammer out the "nitty gritty" of a sustainable operation.

For example, training of Ugandans to run the refinery after five years, safe and secure operations of the refinery using the latest technology (drones for pipeline inspection) and personnel rather than the army, welfare of the workers including healthcare and housing/transport and other amenities commensurate with such a huge establishment, etc, etc,.
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0 #4 Jama 2018-04-12 02:23
This oil business is one of the major reasons, people don't want to hand over power.

Heaven knows whether there will be transparency in the management of the funds. And whether the entire nation will benefit from it in development sector.
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0 #5 Zaitun 2018-04-12 09:29
I do not understand the Mulonis and her godfathers. How can you just build a refinery at $4 billion, the equivalent of what you suspect to be the value of what is lying under the soil?

If Algeria was able to get Russian engineers to build big gas and petroleum refineries at the cost of less than $3 billion, could our despots not do the same?

Did all these Ugandans signing the dubious agreement ever been to a recognized University or Higher Institute of learning?

What does Uganda gain from such an agreement? Is Uganda the Consortium to get only 40% and yet that part has already been distributed to friendly neighbors?
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+1 #6 Zaitun 2018-04-12 09:29
Part II
You are not doing us the least justice knowing that the country does not have the money you are boasting of.

Instead of telling us lies, simply say that you are on the waiting list of those ready to jump and grab the sum when it is available.

May this project flop so that real Ugandan citizens will take the burden to build what you would like to destroy!!

Oh Uganda, may God uphold thee, we lay our future in Thy Hands!!!! Yes, we have been abandoned by Thee for such along time, for we have not been heeding to your words.
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