China's CNOOC says it aims to take a stake in Ugandan oil pipeline

KAMPALA, July 26 (Reuters) - Chinese oil firm China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) aims to take a stake in an oil pipeline being developed to export Ugandan crude, the firm said on Friday.

Uganda discovered crude oil reserves about 13 years ago but commercial production has been delayed partly because of a lack of infrastructure, such as an export pipeline.

The 1,445 km (900 mile) East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), costing $3.5 billion, will pass through neighbouring Tanzania to the Indian Ocean port of Tanga.

“CNOOC shall participate in the EACOP project,” Aminah Bukenya, spokeswoman for the firm’s Ugandan unit, told Reuters, adding that the level of its equity stake would be determined by the joint venture partners.

CNOOC jointly owns Uganda’s oil fields with France’s Total and Britains’s Tullow.

Total has previously said it was interested in financing the pipeline. Tanzania and Uganda are both expected to take stakes.

About two thirds of the pipeline’s cost will be financed by debt and a Ugandan unit of South Africa’s Standard Bank Group and Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp are jointly helping to raise the credit.

Ugandan officials have said the government is now aiming to have commercial crude production start in 2022.

Government geologists estimates the country’s reserves, in the Albertine rift basin near the border with Democratic Republic of Congo, at 6 billion barrels.

Bukenya said CNOOC also planned to produce gas and use some of it to generate up to 42 megawatts of electricity for the company’s use and for sale to the national grid.

Energy Minister Irene Muloni said in December that Uganda’s oil fields had associated natural gas reserves estimated at 500 billion cubic feet.

Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Omar Mohammed and Edmund Blair