Total Anxious to Start on Uganda Oil Project - Executive

KAMPALA (Dow Jones Newswires), Feb. 2, 2011

France oil major Total is "eager" and "anxious" to commence the development of Ugandan oil assets, as it seeks to expand its African operations, said a company executive.

Sergio Matesco, Total's director with responsibility for Sub-saharan Africa, told the East African Petroleum conference in Kampala that Total is ready commence investments in the country's downstream industry, including in refining, transportation and marketing.

"We are proud to have been recognized by Tullow Oil and the government of Uganda as a valuable investment partner for the future of this project," he said, adding that Total has continued to make acquisitions in Africa, the most recent ones being in Ivory Coast, and Mauritania.

Last year, Total agreed a joint venture with Tullow and National Offshore Oil Company (CEO) for the development of oil assets in three oil blocks. However, the deal awaits government approval.

Mateso also said Africa remains an attractive market for Total mainly due to its impressive growth rates in recent years, as well as the rising energy demands.

"Our partnership with Africa spans 60 years and currently we have around 10,000 workers in Africa," he said.

Matesco further said Total plans to bring on at least eight new oil and gas projects in Africa by 2015 and boost its current African production, which stands at 450,000 barrels-a-day of oil.

According to Matesco, Total has also consolidated its marketing and distribution business to become a market leader in Uganda following its acquisition of Caltex gasoline stations in the country in 2009.

Brian Glover, the Tullow Uganda unit general manager, said separately the partners will invest at least $10 billion in the project, which will include a refinery and 1,300-kilometer long pipe line to the East African coast for an export project.

"Tullow has so far been very successful to attract big international companies which can help in raising the required capital," he said.

Exploration companies have so far discovered at least one billion barrels of oil in a 160-kilometer stretch in the Lake Albertine rift basin, and Tullow believes that another 1.5 billion of oil awaits to be discovered in its license areas.

Talks over the approval of the joint venture and a tax dispute over Tullow's purchase of Heritage Oil stakes in two blocks continue and an approval is expected soon, according to Uganda's energy and minerals Minister.

Last month, Uganda announced it's planning to build a $2 billion oil refinery to supply refined fuel products for local and regional markets.

A government official said the refinery would be developed in three phases under a public-private partnership arrangement.

The first phase is expected to produce at least 20,000 barrels a day of refined fuel products such as diesel, gasoline and kerosene to supply the domestic market.

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