Energy Transition Plan: How Uganda Will Decarbonize Its Oil & Gas Projects

by Christopher Kiiza
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Uganda has established an ambitious Energy Transition Plan to harness its significant energy and mineral reserves, stimulate economic growth, eradicate energy poverty and guide the nation towards a fair and equitable transition in the energy sector.

The plan comes amid numerous protests by climate activists and European governments to halt the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) which is among the country’s energy projects.

Uganda’s oil and gas sector comprises of various projects that include; Kingfisher project (40,000 barrels per day- peak production), Tilenga project (190,000 barrels per day – peak production), the refinery, and the East African Crude Oil Pipeline which is the world’s longest heated crude oil pipeline.

Much as climate activists claim that EACOP is dangerous to the environment, Government of Uganda says EACOP is the world’s most technologically smart oil pipeline.

The 1,443km EACOP pipeline will transport Uganda’s crude oil from the Albertine region in western Uganda to Tanga port in Tanzania for export to the international market.

The 3.5 billion dollar EACOP project – a collaboration between TotalEnergies EP Uganda (TotalEnergies) with 62% shareholding, Uganda government through Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) with 15%, Tanzania government with 15%, and China National Offshore Oil Corporation Uganda Limited (CNOOC) with 8%, is very vital in developing Uganda’s oil and gas sector that is scheduled to pump its first crude oil in 2025.

EACOP has drawn global criticism at a time when the world is shifting from use of fuel fossils to renewable energy.

The Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, Irene Bateebe says the country has ambitious plans to decarbonize and, by 2065, become Net Zero while, at the same time, making sure no Ugandan is left behind.

The country’s energy transition plan for its oil and gas sector takes measures to reduce its carbon footprint by decarbonizing the oil and gas projects in order to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions through the following interventions.

No gas flare: According to the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, Uganda shall not flare gas during normal oil and gas operations.

“Emission reduction technologies: Uganda’s oil and gas sector utilizes the best available emission reduction technologies in the design and engineering of the projects. These include; equipment efficiency optimization and vapor recovery.”

The plan also includes, low carbon energy sources such as solar and hydroelectricity for oil project utilities, and the establishment of advanced leak detection and repair systems to minimize risk of emissions.

The plan further includes, adoption of an integrated power strategy that includes recovery, and monetization of gas to LPG. This is expected to provide a cleaner alternative to firewood and charcoal.

Over 90% of Uganda’s population depends on firewood and charcoal for cooking. This is causing massive deforestation at a rate of 86,000 hectares per year.

“Uganda’s oil and gas projects will therefore reduce the reliance on firewood as a source of energy and Uganda’s carbon emissions,” says the Ministry of Energy.

Government also counts on investment in cleaner and affordable energy is in line with global goals to encourage growth and protect the environment.

Uganda’s energy transition plan protects the carbon sink forests of the East African nation and dramatically reduces the country’s current carbon emissions, which are driven largely by biomass consumption. If the current high demand for biomass continues unchecked, it is estimated that Uganda’s entire national stock of forest and tree cover will disappear within two decades.

Although Uganda stands at the forefront of renewable energy with around 95 percent of its electricity sourced from hydro and solar power, its existing generation capacity will soon hit 2,000MW after the country’s biggest hydro power plant, Karuma (600MW) is commissioned.

The core of the Energy Transition Plan involves a dual approach focusing on boosting both supply and demand. This entails elevating renewable generation supply to 52,000MW by 2040, and fostering demand by enhancing distribution capacity and implementing smart technology. For instance, household appliances such as cookers can qualify for an e-tariff, making them more cost-effective than biomass.

“The Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, Dr Fatih Birol says, “this plan is a testament to what can be achieved through international cooperation and a shared vision for a sustainable future.

He adds: “The IEA is proud to partner with Uganda in this pivotal endeavour.”

The Energy Minister, Ruth Nankabirwa says, “this plan is more than just an energy strategy; it’s a commitment to our planet and future generations.

“A crucial aspect of the energy transition plan is its innovative funding model, leveraging revenues from Uganda’s burgeoning oil and gas sector. We have a unique opportunity to fund this transition through our natural resources, setting an example of responsible and sustainable development,” she adds.

In its National Energy Policy 2023, the Ugandan government aims to ensure universal access to electricity, modernize and diversify Uganda’s energy mix, promote efficient sector-wide use of energy, and secure affordable energy supply while offering access to clean cooking solutions to 50 percent of the population by 2040.

Uganda’s Carbon Emissions

Uganda is one of the lowest carbon emitters in the world.

‘The Director Legal and Corporate Affairs at Petroleum Authority of Uganda, Ali Ssekatawa says, “Uganda’s oil and gas projects contribute 0.01% of the global emissions and these are low emission projects that even at the peak of production, Uganda will still be on the low emission category.”

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