Brian Sallery on the future and potential of Uganda’s Oil and Gas Industry

Brian SalleryBrian Sallery is an expert in the Oil and Gas Sector. He is an adviser to the Uganda National Bureau of Standards on Health and Safety Policies in Uganda’s Oil and Gas sector. He has worked with Statoil, written a column on Uganda’s Oil and Gas sector in the East African Business Week and is the former Principal of the Institute of Petroleum Studies Kampala.  Brian Sallery has a blog on which he shares his ideas on the Oil and Gas industry across the world

Zakaria Tiberindwa had a chat with him on what he thinks about the future and potential of Uganda’s Oil and Gas sector and here is an excerpt of their conversation?

You have been in the Oil and Gas industry for some time now, how did you start?

Around 2000 I started with Statoil. Statoil is the state owned Norwegian Company which has a subsidiary in the United Kingdom for which I used to work. At first I worked in the IT department. I was later moved to the regulatory department.

And how did you come to Africa and particularly into Uganda’s Oil and Gas sector?

I used to teach oil and gas courses, petroleum courses to the Nigerian government people. I would come over for a few days sometimes a couple of weeks. Often there would be PHD level people. They wanted to know what is new in the sector because the sector is always evolving. So they would come to me and the company I was working for to get some in depth training in certain areas.

And from there I did some more petroleum training.

Later, I started an education business in the UK. We delivered Oil and Gas courses to the local market. From that point, I came to Uganda where I was the principal for the institute of Petroleum studies. I am no longer now.

Due to the work I was doing and my knowledge in the sector I was invited by the East African Business Week to write a weekly column on Uganda’s Oil and Gas sector which I am also no longer writing.

I was then invited by Uganda National Bureau of Standards to become an advisor on health and safety standards in the petroleum industry in Uganda. Because of my background in Health and Safety, having a NAOSH and NEBOSH Certification, as an internal auditor by British Standards, I was well placed to become an adviser on such matters.  We are now working on health and safety policies which have to be in place before we start production.

What do you think of the future of Uganda’s Oil industry, do you see it prosper?

I am very optimistic on Uganda Oil, there lots of potential, but we need to make sure that we don’t make the same mistake that others have made in the past. We should be benefiting from history because this is not a new product. There are plenty of advisers; there are plenty of companies that have done this before. There is plenty of experience, so there is no reason to make the same mistakes that even the UK have made.

What does concern me though is that it has taken so long for Uganda to start moving. When you consider Kenya started six years after Uganda and they may be able to start producing slightly ahead of Uganda.

What would you suggest that Uganda does to benefit maximally from the oil it will be producing?

Do you have the distribution network? Have you got the roads that are going to the wells? Have you got the manpower and the skills or are you going to employ experts? Do you have sufficient storage for the crude oil because you might be producing the oil quicker than you can deliver it to the refinery? How is that oil going to be regulated? All those must be in place, really before the first barrel of oil starts flowing.

Besides, there is also oil in Kenya, is that oil you’re producing going to be profitable? Because if you can’t produce oil that is equal to what the competitors in Kenya are producing, then your oil is going to be too expensive. Then you are going to increase the taxes for importing the oil.  And then other countries are going to do the same and then the scales will fail to balance. So you must make sure you produce oil that is cost effective.

We must also make sure that the oil produced gets to the local people first and once their needs have been met the additional oil that will be produced can then be sold out to external buyers

Being the expert that you are, how do you think oil will impact on other sectors of the economy?

With oil you get money and power. So the country will expand, the region will expand just because they are producing Oil and the other agricultural crops are going to decline because that land is being used for Oil production. Historically there has been a problem where a country has a product which they sell, it could be tea or it could be anything else. Those products go into decline as a result of oil production.

In your opinion do you think it was a smart move for Uganda to have its own refinery?

Uganda needs their own refinery so that other countries which are producing Oil quicker than they can refine will say Uganda is next door so we can send our oil to them and the government will make money that way. It is a very smart move to have a refinery in Uganda before we even start producing oil.

Now if Uganda doesn’t have a refinery, most probably the oil produced will go to Kenya and come back to Uganda as refined products like Kerosene, Petrol or Diesel which may be expensive for locals. Eventually Uganda will need its own refinery

As the world progresses, the technology in renewable energy is advancing and more are embracing this progress in technology and cutting down on the use of oil as a source of energy. Shouldn’t this be a cause for us to worry?

For the west which has a more mature market, we need the alternative sources of energy like wind, solar, nuclear. We need them because the market that we have far exceeds the amount of petroleum we can produce. For the new markets, Fossil fuels are not renewable we know but no one is going to say, hey look let’s go driving electric cars, that’s not going happen 30 years away from now in Uganda.

Besides, products used to create solar disks are petrol chemicals, plastics; they use oil in some form, hydrocarbons. You’ll never fully get away. At the moment, technology is not there to completely get away from oil. And even if you say we are going to produce oil and use these petro chemicals in the production of equipment for making alternative sources of energy, it is fine.

Your last words to Ugandans out there

I would say you have got this natural resource, make use of it, make the most from it, enjoy the benefits that come from that and I want to see Uganda being number one producer.

I am fully behind Uganda, we have got lots of potential, there is need to be focused, don’t make the same mistakes others made. I am very hopeful about the whole industry in Uganda that it will prosper. So let’s push forward, let’s make it number one for East Africa.

You should also read what Brain told us on

How to get a job and land opportunities in the Oil and Gas sector

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