In the pursuit of the most suitable site location for an Oil Refinery we are told that Foster Wheeler the major researcher behind the efficacy of an Oil Refinery in Uganda evaluated three regions and identified six potential sites for the refinery as a result.
The six sites that the Foster Wheeler report identified include Lwampanga around the shores of Lake Kyoga, Bukakata, Katebo and Majanji around the shores of Lake Victoria, Biso and obviously Kabale which were zeroed on as the ultimate site locations for an oil refinery.
Foster Wheeler employed a high level screening that identified the strengths and weaknesses of each site and reviewed a number of factors regarding the suitability of these sites like current land use, access to infrastructure (road, railways etc), local facilities, relative location to the market, and requirements of crude import (approximate lengths of pipelines).
The report also made a high level review of topography, site conditions and environmental impacts, coupled with a review of local infrastructure such as roads, rail, schools, hospitals and airfields among others to come up with a qualitative assessment of each site and ranking based on such an assessment. And at the end of all the assessments the most preferred site was Kabale followed by Biso. Both sites are found South of Lake Albert near to the Oil fields
“Based on major capital cost issues Kabale remains the preferred site with Biso closely behind.” The report reads in part.
The report argues that the single largest factor in the cost analysis is the cost of transporting crude to the refinery, these costs being orders of magnitude greater than the other significant cost factors.
“This is why the sites located nearest to the oil fields are preferred from a cost stand point” the report asserts.
The key differentiators that make Kabale and Biso stand out include the fact that taking on such site locations for a refinery means minimizing the costly crude oil pipe-run lengths between the oil fields and the refinery.
Placing the refinery in Kabale is also projected to carry less damaging social implications since locating the refinery in unpopulated areas rather than the more heavily populated regions around Lake Victoria would pose a milder challenge in light of the associated land acquisition and population relocation complications that come with such an endeavor.
It was also found that a refinery in Kabale would have a less environmental impact because at such a location the refinery would not be sitting at an environmentally sensitive lakeside location
Locating the refinery at elevated plots eliminates the additional costs and longer project schedules associated with preparing marshy terrain associated with lakeside locations
Besides, locating the refinery near the oil field development provides the perfect opportunity for the sharing of infrastructure developments, social and recreational facilities, fire fighting facilities, technical facilities, warehousing, workshop, maintenance and contracting facilities, power and utilities among others with the oil field developments. As result this is expected to facilitate the growth of an oil city which in turn will encourage other industries to develop in the region.
Nonetheless there are notable disadvantages associated with locating the refinery in the vicinity of Lake Albert and the Oil fields but which are definitely outweighed by the advantages.
The report outlines one of these shortcomings as the remote location of Kabale which requires greater infrastructural development that includes the surfacing of dirt roads, development of a township with social and recreational facilities that will attract workers (local and expatriate) to the region.
Other disadvantages highlighted in the report include the need for longer construction heavy haul routes with potential costs required for road and bridge upgrading, more undulating terrain at the top of the Rift valley escarpment that will require cut and fill land leveling and possible terracing work and longer distance travel required between the populated areas around Kampala, Lake Victoria and the refinery.