On Friday, October 6, 2023, oil and petroleum sector regulator, the Petroleum Authority of Uganda issued a directive halting the drilling and other operations at the Kingfisher Project in Kikuube District. A letter signed by PAU Executive Director Ernest Rubondo stated that the directive followed a fatal accident that resulted from negligence on the part of the area operators CNOOC Uganda Limited. Rubondo further explains that there had been several warnings that CNOOC had failed to heed to, a trend that puts the safety of the personnel in jeopardy.
According to Rubondo, Section 177 of the Petroleum (Exploration, Development, and Production) Act of 2013, requires that following a fatality all operations must be halted, with the exception of those activities that are necessary to ensure safety and security.
The Kingfisher oil well area in Kikuube District, operated by CNOOC Uganda is one part of the larger Lake Albert Oil development project with oil field development stretching to the north of the lake in Buliisa District. On the other side in Buliisa, TotalEnergies EP Uganda are in the process of drilling more than 400 oil wells across 31 oil pads in the Tilenga oil well. In 2012, TotalEnergies EP Uganda entered a partnership with CNOOC to operate the Lake Albert Project. TotalEnergies holds the majority interest in the Lake Albert project with 56.67% and is the operator of the Tilenga project while CNOOC holds 28.33% and is operator of the Kingfisher project. The Uganda National Oil Company holds 15% in the projects.
The Tilenga project will produce 230,000 barrels of oil at the plateau from the 6 fields of Ngiri, Jobi Rii, Gunya, Mputa-Nzizi-Waraga, Kasemene-Wahrindi, Kigogole-Ngara, Nsoga and Ngege fields. Over 400 oil wells will be constructed on 31 well pads to produce oil and gas resources. The first oil production is projected to start in 2025.
The costs of safety
Safety is of utmost importance in any oil and gas activity and this safety, measured through Lost Time Incidents (LTI), is a key indicator of performance. An LTIs refers to a workplace injury endured by an employee that leads to a significant loss of productive work time, surpassing a period of 24 hours. In more severe cases, it can result in permanent disability or, tragically, even death. This measure serves as a retrospective indicator, gauging a company’s historical accident statistics.
Last month TotalEnergies EP Uganda’s announced that it had achieved 20 million man-hours without an LTIs. For a duration spanning from August 10, 2023, and spanning 226 days since their previous milestone in January 2023, not a single employee or contractor suffered a workplace injury resulting in prolonged work disruption. This achievement reflects TotalEnergies’ dedication to a robust safety culture, meticulously safeguarding the well-being of its over 8,000 employees and contractors, and reinforcing continuous vigilance in all their operations.
As Philippe GROUEIX, General Manager of TotalEnergies EP Uganda, emphasizes, safety is a cornerstone of the company’s values, as an unsafe company is not sustainable. Achieving this milestone underscores the collective commitment to delivering their complex and large-scale project without accidents, positioning them as one of the top-performing TotalEnergies affiliates in terms of safety. It is a reflection of their organizational culture, stringent risk management, adherence to Safety Golden Rules, leadership commitment, comprehensive training, and the involvement of all stakeholders. The company attributes a lot of this achievement to contractors, who they say played a pivotal role, executing a significant portion of the man-hours, demonstrating their shared commitment to minimizing risks and enhancing safety performance.
“Safety is a core value at TotalEnergies EP Uganda and our achievement of 10-million-man hours without injuries is testament to the fact that all our employees and contractors take this value seriously”. says GROUEIX.
“It is important to recognize the key role played by the dedicated Health, Safety and Environment teams as well as the site supervision teams who work in close collaboration with our contractors to ensure that safety remains a priority for all. Given the significant increase of our activities on site, it is critical to reinforce our collective commitment to safeguarding the lives of everybody working on the project”, he added.
The Company has invested heavily in state-of-the-art technology and equipment, local and international experts for the development of the projects and has put in place strict safety protocols to minimize risks on its sites.