My oil, your oil, our oil!
The earliest signs of ‘black gold’ in Uganda appeared in the colonial era as an oil seepage near Kibiro on the shores of Lake Albert. This prompted the British colonial administration to commission a government geologist called E. J. Wayland to do an evaluation of the area’s hydrocarbon potential. Wayland would go on to document numerous hydrocarbon occurrences in the Albertine Graben and issue exploration licenses in the 1920’s before realizing that the geology was too incomplete to exploit.
Oil exploration nonetheless continued intermittently through the 1930’s but came to a halt when the Second World War changed the calculus for a victorious but worn out Britain. With the cost of two world wars fought only 20 years apart weighing heavily on them, the British soon realised that their time as colonial masters would be over a whole 60 years earlier than they had planned. Accordingly, changes in policy were made to prepare their territories for independence. East Africa was thus zoned for Agriculture and West Africa for Oil Exploration. Post-independence political uncertainties and instability in the country further set back the exploration efforts despite the desperate efforts of the UPC governments and the acquisition of aeromagnetic data across the entire Graben.
Seismic data was first acquired in the Graben during 1998 and several surveys have been undertaken to date. Over one hundred wells have been drilled from 2002 to date and more are planned. Of Uganda’s five sedimentary basins (The Albertine Graben, Hoima Basin, Lake Kyoga Basin, Lake Wamala Basin, Kadam-Moroto Basin), the Albertine Graben has so far been discovered as the most prospective area for petroleum in Uganda. It forms the northern most part of the western arm of the East African Rift Valley System, 500 km long, averaging 45 km wide and 23,000 sq Km. It runs along Uganda’s western border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and is a distance of 1,200 Km from the nearest coast.
The L. Albert trail will hug the lake shores running from Kaiso, past abandoned exploration wells all the way to Tonya. The terrain is flat along the shores but quickly rises up the escarpment to reveal a grand view of the rift valley below. From up here, one is forced to ponder the future of a region that once basked in the glory of recent oil discoveries but now faces the grim prospect of jobs moving away as the delayed exploration of the black gold begins to slowly push out disillusioned oil companies. Perhaps the fortunes here are as flippant as the name changes the lake has endured.
Lake Albert was previously known as “Mwitanzige” by the Banyoro and Batooro, as well as other peoples who have been populated the region for centuries before the colonial age. In 1864, the explorers Samuel Baker and Sass Flóra found the lake and renamed it after the recently deceased Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria. In the 20th century, Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko temporarily named the lake after himself. What does the future hold?
*Cost for this hike is 230,000 shillings for MSU members and 245,000 shillings for non-members.
*This is an estimate for planning purposes. The final cost will be communicated 3 to 4 weeks before the date of departure.