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Uganda Owes Oil Companies $492 Million In Exploration Expenses

KAMPALA, Uganda -(Dow Jones)- The Ugandan government owes oil exploration companies at least $492.5 million for exploration activities along the country's western border with Congo, Uganda's Auditor General said Wednesday. The amount was invested by oil exploration companies in the Lake Albertine rift basin and is recoverable upon the commencement of oil production, as per the oil production-sharing agreements between companies and the government, the Auditor General said in a report. Oil exploration activities over the past eight years have found commercial oil and gas reserves in Uganda's Lake Albertine rift. Uganda has so far discovered around 1.5 billion barrels of oil in three blocks, operated by U.K.-based Tullow Oil PLC (TLW.LN) and estimates reserves at 2.5 billion barrels of oil. In February, Tullow completed the much-delayed $2.9 billion sale of a third of its stake in the three blocks to France's Total SA (TOT) and China's Cnooc Ltd. (CEO). The deal is expected to pave the way for the development of the oil fields, where production is expected to hit as much as 350,000 barrels of oil a day by 2018, according to company officials. Peter Lokeris, Uganda's junior energy and minerals minister told Dow Jones Newswires Wednesday that talks between the government and oil companies over the construction of a refinery and a 1,300 kilometer export pipeline to the East African coast are in the final stages. "We are still discussing the shareholding structure of the refinery with the companies," he said, adding that a national oil company will be set up to take care of the government's stake in the oil projects. Uganda has five unlicensed oil blocks which are expected to be auctioned later this year. Other exploration companies operating in the country include Dominion Petroleum and London-listed Tower Resources PLC (TRP.LN). -By Nicholas Bariyo, contributing to Dow Jones Newswires; 256-75-2624615;

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