The developers of the East African crude oil pipeline are set to use artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor the over 1,400-kilometer pipeline stretching from Kabaale in Hoima to the port of Tanga in Tanzania.
AI will enable real-time detection of any leakage or tampering along the pipeline, ensuring prompt response and maintenance. The Petroleum Authority of Uganda, the regulator of the oil and gas sector, along with the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline Project operator, confirmed the deployment of this advanced technology on the world’s longest-heated crude oil pipeline.
The move comes as a part of the increasing trend of AI integration in the global energy industry, particularly in pipeline operations. Concerns have been raised about potential oil theft and environmental leakages, similar to challenges faced in Nigeria.
However, Martin Tiffen, managing director of East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) Ltd, assured that the pipeline’s state-of-the-art design and technology, including a fiber optic cable running alongside it, will mitigate these risks effectively.
Tiffen explained that the pipeline’s design is tailored for Uganda’s waxy oil, which requires constant heating to maintain flow. The pipeline, resembling a thermos flask, will be insulated and heated up to 50 degrees Celsius to preserve the oil’s fluidity.
Lawrence Ssempagi, EACOP project lead, detailed the features of the pipeline, including a fiber optic cable that will detect temperature changes, indicating potential leakages. The cable will also serve as a data transmission line for the governments of Uganda and Tanzania.
The pipeline, to be buried 1.6 to 1.8 meters underground, will employ horizontal drilling methods for crossing rivers and auger drilling for road crossings. Joseph Mukasa, the environmental specialist at EACOP, emphasized the project’s adherence to environmental guidelines, particularly when crossing wetlands.
Dozith Abeinomugisha, director in charge of Midstream Developments at the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU), highlighted that EACOP will be one of the world’s most advanced and safest pipelines, with real-time satellite monitoring to detect any pressure changes indicating leaks or tampering.
The project, which has faced local and international scrutiny over environmental and human rights concerns, is reportedly costing about $4 billion. The PAU assures that the pipeline’s construction, is one of the most challenging infrastructure projects in African history.
The pipeline’s route was selected to minimize disruption to local communities and the environment. Compensation has been offered to affected residents in both Uganda and Tanzania, with the majority accepting the packages. With the first 100km of pipe already manufactured and expected to arrive soon, the EACOP project is progressing steadily, promising to revolutionize the region’s oil and gas sector.