* Refinery project opening up for expressions of interest
* Says talked to 15 companies including Sinopec about
* Says production licences for Tullow, Total could come this
By Sarah Young and Elias Biryabarema
KAMPALA/LONDON, Oct 8 Uganda said over a dozen
companies were interested in investing in a $2.5 billion
refinery project and it would soon issue two further production
licences, helping the country move closer to pumping reserves
discovered seven years ago.
Uganda hopes to become a significant oil producer after
Tullow Oil found oil in the Albertine rift basin along
the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The country's junior minister of energy and mineral
development said the government was opening up the refinery
project for expressions of interest on Wednesday, and added that
Tullow and France's Total could be awarded production
licences some time this month.
"As they (Tullow and Total) fulfil all the requirements, we
shall sign the production licences for them," Peter Lokeris told
reporters on the sidelines of a conference on Tuesday.
China's CNOOC in September received the first
production licence, giving it a green light for a $2 billion
plan over four years to develop the Kingfisher oil field.
The minister said he was also confident on securing
investment for its 30,000 barrel per day refinery, saying there
were "many" companies interested in the project.
"We have discussed with some 15 companies, different
companies worldwide," he said, naming Chinese refiner Sinopec
and an Australian company as amongst those interested.
Egyptian private equity firm Citadel Capital has
expressed interest in the project in the past.
Wrangling over taxes and the viability of the local refinery
have in the past threatened to stall the development of Uganda's
estimated 3.5 billion barrels of reserves, with commercial
production expected to start in four years' time.
Robert Kasande, a senior official at the country's ministry
of energy, told Reuters in a separate interview on Tuesday that
investors in the refinery will take a 60 percent stake and the
government will hold the rest.
East African neighbours such as Kenya have been offered 10
percent of the project, to be taken from the government's share,
"We are looking for somebody with prior experience and
technical expertise in investing in a refinery," said Kasande.
Interested firms will have a month to submit their bids, he
said, with winners being selected by April next year.
"Our estimate is that by 2017-2018 the refinery should be
ready and that time is in line with the first production licence
that we've just handed out," Kasande said.
Uganda agreed earlier to a plan to build a pipeline from its
oilfields to a new port being developed on Kenya's northern
coast to pump extra crude that will not be processed locally.
Minister Lokeris said South Sudan was involved in the talks
about the pipeline. The country wants a new export route for its
crude as it currently relies on a pipeline through its northern
neighbour Sudan, and rows between the two have disrupted flows.
"Southern Sudan is discussing with Kenya that they also want
part of their oil to pass through Kenya. We are all part of it,
we discuss it together," he said, declining to give details on
financing and costs for the project.