By NICHOLAS BARIYO
KAMPALA, Uganda -- The Ugandan government said Friday that it is seeking to contract a transaction advisor to help with plans for a 180,000 bpd oil refinery, as the East African nation continues efforts to develop is nascent oil sector.
In a statement, the Energy and Minerals Development Ministry said the advisor is expected to help on structuring the project, which is to be built in a phased manner - starting with capacity of 20,000 bpd - over the next three years.
The transaction advisor shall advise on... developing a feasible project financing structure, planning and securing appropriate investment partners and developing plans for the refining company, the ministry stated.
The ministry didn't indicate how much it would pay for the services of the transaction advisor but said the cost would be covered using a grant from the Norwegian Foreign Ministry.
An ambitious refinery project remains a sticking point between the government and Tullow Oil, Total and Cnooc, who are in the process of exploiting the country's oil fields in the Lake Albertine rift basin.
While the three companies want to take crude on to the open market through pipelines to the East African coast, the Ugandan government has insisted that most of the crude be refined locally into fuel products, initially for domestic consumption and then for regional export.
Company officials couldn't comment immediately.
The ministry said that the 20,000 bpd plant will be upgraded to 60,000, then to 120,000 and later to 180,000 bpd.
While the companies had initially agreed to help fund a small 20,000 bpd refinery at an estimated cost of around $1.5 billion, they have opposed plans for a larger refinery and fears are rife that renewed bickering could delay the pumping of crude from the Lake Albertine rift basin.
With around 1.8 billion untapped bbl of oil, Uganda has the capacity to join the ranks of top African oil producers such as Nigeria, Angola and Sudan.
Dow Jones Newswires