The signs are clear that Uganda is considering Tanzania Northeastern Port of Tanga as the most profitable route for it’s oil export pipeline project other than Kenya’s Lamu.
This move is likely to be a thorn in Kenya’s foot if the amount of technical investment East Africa’s economic powerhouse has incurred to bring the project home is anything worthy consideration.
Experts say that among the three potential routes on Uganda’s table including; the Tanga in Tanzania, backed by a study conducted by Gulf Interstate Engineering and the southern and northern Kenya routes, supported by the Toyota Tsusho feasibility study, Uganda’s oil business can only be more profitable at Tanga.
“It is not rocket science that routing both commercial traffic and oil through Kenya would give Nairobi near total influence on economic matters and would, added to Kenya’s already considerable market penetration in Uganda, leave little wiggle-room for unforeseen and some predictable hazards,” Uganda based Oil sector analyst Angelo Izama Opined.
Uganda seems to be heeding to these calls. The presidency in March (16, 2016) said the country is currently working on the implementation of an earlier decision to have its crude oil export pipeline southwards to Tanzania as opposed to Kenya.
Currently, technical teams from Uganda and Kenya are in Kampala assessing their findings on the viability of both routes a symbol read by many as a move to lure Uganda to opt for the northern Route. The Team is part of a recommendation from negotiations held between Uganda President Yoweri Museveni and Kenya Leader Uhuru Kenyatta.
Both nations expect an in-depth analysis of the most cost-effective route to transport 600 million and 6.5 billion barrels of oil from Kenya and Uganda respectively.
Kenya Energy and Petroleum Principal Secretary Andrew Kamau told Business Daily Africa that the outcome of the discussion will be presented at the Northern Corridor Integration Projects (NCIP) summit in Kampala.
It appears Tanga is more prepared to handle the oil cargo than the ill facilitated Lamu Port with insecurity threats and the congested port of Mombasa in Kenya. Uganda Oil Confidants say this is what formed the signing of a memorandum of Understanding between Uganda and Tanzania to Study the Southern Route.
The agreement on the Tanzania route came on a background of a close door meeting between President Yoweri Museveni and Total’s Chief executive Javier Rielo.
Rielo would later meet Tanzania’s President John Magufuli who announced that the company will begin construction of the crude-oil pipeline project from Uganda to the Tanga port as quickly as the decision is made because there is money for the project.
However, this route harbors a huge environmental damage according to conservationists.
Serengeti national Park pressure group, Serengeti Watch has argued that the proposed pipeline will according to plan go through environmentally sensitive areas including lake Victoria and Serengeti National Park .
“Should the pipeline go through Tanzania, it could be a threat to the Serengeti and other ecosystems along the route,” the group said in March.
“If this were the sole issue, then a route from Uganda, across Lake Victoria, across the Serengeti, and onward to the coast would be the shortest path. This distance, by some estimates, would be about the same as the northern route through Kenya,” they said.
The group says the impact of an oil pipeline of the kind appropriate for Uganda on the Serengeti would be catastrophic and end the migration of wild life.
“Heating of the oil to the required temperature means that the pipeline could not be buried in the ground. It would have to lay on the surface, a soft “cotton” soil that would risk shifting, breaking the pipe. There would even be more risk if the pipeline were somehow elevated on supports” they said.
A London based civil society campaigner, Global witness has been tight on Uganda government to desist from conducting oil related activities in environmentally sensitive areas.
Their latest campaign has yielded. International Oil companies have shied away from oil blocks in Lake Albert following the call for bids in the country’s first round of competitive licensing.
The acting commissioner in charge of Exploration in the Directorate of Petroleum in Uganda said the development arose to the smear campaign by civil society organisations.
“There was a lot of smear campaigns by various environmental groups (like Global Witness) and we think it was part of the reason.”
Serengeti watch has just won a case against a move by Tanzania government to construct a highway through Serengeti National park. Uganda then would face a huddle in convincing the environmentalists to pause a campaign against the project.