NEW DELHI, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Uganda aims to award seven production licenses to Britain's Tullow Oil by the end of March, its energy and mineral development minister said on Monday, as the country inches closer to starting crude production.
East Africa's third-largest economy, which struck hydrocarbon deposits in the Albertine rift basin along its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), expects to begin commercial production in 2016 at the earliest.
Uganda is negotiating eight production licenses with Tullow and one with French major Total.
"Total has just submitted the data so we will take some time. Tullow we hope to finalize in 2 months," Irene Muloni told Reuters on the sidelines of an industry event near New Delhi.
"It is back and forth. We will finalise the process based on completeness of data that they submit," she said at the Petrotech conference.
Uganda aims to have at least half of the planned 60,000 barrels per day refinery operating by end of 2017.
"We think it can come online quickly if we take the phased approach where we have first train of 30,000 (barrels) come online first," she said.
Uganda last year announced it had selected six firms to bid for the development and operation of a $2.5 billion refinery to help process the crude once production starts.
She said the six firms could submit final bids for the planned refinery by end of March.
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