In Uganda, Total brings commitment and complianceApril 12, 2021
Pierre Jessua, country chair of Total Uganda and general manager of Total E&P Uganda, talks to The Energy Year about progress in the company’s upstream projects and its dedication to the careful management of social and environmental impacts. Total E&P Uganda is the lead operator on the Lake Albert Project, with an equity holding of 66.66%.
How do you view the achievements and challenges associated with Total’s presence in Uganda and its involvement in the Lake Albert Project?
Total’s presence in Uganda is a long and successful story which started in the mid-1950s with the marketing and services activities. Over time, the company has grown to become the market leader with a network of over 200 service stations spread across the country. The story of Total E&P, which began operations in Uganda in the 2010s, is more recent but equally successful.
Total’s recent acquisition of Tullow’s interests in Uganda has positioned Total E&P Uganda [TEPU] as the lead operator on the Lake Albert Project with an equity holding of 66.66%.
We are also proud to highlight the tremendous progress achieved over recent years with the definition of the development of the projects and significant progress to conclude the various agreements with both the government of Uganda and partners. This has enabled TEPU, CNOOC and UNOC to work towards the final investment decision.
How do you assess the progress made by UNOC and the government to enhance the development of the domestic oil and gas industry in the past decade?
In a relatively short period of time, the authorities have been able to establish a regulatory regime and create a national oil company capable of participating in the industry as a commercial entity. UNOC has shown genuine ambition to work across the energy chain and is preparing itself to meet the associated challenges. One has to commend the progress that has been made to date.
What are the key considerations around the approval of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) and how is Total working towards limiting the impact on local communities?
First off, the three projects (Tilenga, Kingfisher and EACOP) have been designed and are to carry out activities in compliance with the companies’, national and international standards, specifically International Finance Corporation (IFC) standards 1-8 on Environmental and Social Sustainability and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
These include the ESIA, whose development involves consultations with the various stakeholders to include the Project Affected Persons (PAPs) and communities, the NGOs and others, before submission to the relevant authorities for approval, the key one being NEMA [National Environment Management Authority]. Following the ESIAs are the Environmental and Social Management Plans (ESMPs) on all main risks identified.
The key objective to all these processes is to apply an Impact Mitigation Hierarchy in which we identify, avoid, minimise, mitigate or compensate potential risks or threats to the environment and people. With our partners and the authorities, we developed a Land Acquisition and Resettlement Framework to guide and ensure transparency in the land acquisition and resettlement process – right from the identification of the lands and their survey to the value assessments (including the crops and the buildings), processes and types of compensation involved (in-kind or monetary).
Moreover, several independent reviews have been conducted by third-party organisations to ensure that the projects are implemented in compliance with social and environmental best practices. These reviews allow us to assess the effectiveness of the actions undertaken and identify areas of improvement, and have resulted in related action plans.
To this effect, Total launched a transparency initiative by publishing reviews related to the environmental and social performance of Total’s activities on Tilenga and EACOP along with the action plans related to those reviews.
Key to note is Total’s commitment to further reduce its footprint in the Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP) and that we have developed a net gain biodiversity plan for critical habitats. We will also provide special support for the MFNP in terms of management of the park (rangers) and the reintroduction of an endangered species, the eastern black rhinoceros.
What key factors are taken into account in the search for contractors and services companies in respect to project management and enabling infrastructure for Tilenga?
We are looking for them to provide a service which will not only guarantee the integrity and safety of the facilities during their operational life (25 years-plus) but also deliver a project on time and at the best possible cost. To achieve the quality and cost objectives requires high levels of experience, competence and compliance with the international oil and gas standards.
In parallel, we remain committed to the objectives set by the government of Uganda with respect to the involvement of local companies in the project activities.
What steps has Total Uganda taken to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic, enhance new operational efficiencies and adapt its operations to remain resilient?
The Covid-19 pandemic provoked a global health and economic crisis. We had to create and adjust our safe operating procedures in order to safeguard the health and safety of our employees.
In parallel, and together with our partners and the government of Uganda, we remained committed to launching the project despite the pandemic. Indeed, significant progress has been made during the past 12 months thanks to the resilience of the teams, willingness to embrace remote working practices and unwavering support at the highest levels.
The availability of the digital technologies also enabled us to continue with the meetings and negotiations.
Total has adopted a new climate ambition to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. What opportunities do you see ahead for deploying new upstream technologies in places like Uganda to help governments reduce carbon emissions?
The Paris Agreement calls for a carbon-neutral society by mid-century. Our ambition is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, together with society, for all our activities worldwide.
The first part of this ambition is to become carbon neutral in our GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions from our own production facilities. We intend to lower our direct emissions by improving our energy efficiency, eliminating routine flaring, electrifying our processes and reducing methane emissions. This is an obvious goal since we control and are responsible for these emissions.
For example, Tilenga and EACOP represent emissions of 13 kg of CO2 per barrel, which is well below the current average emissions of the group.
In addition, the projects include LPG extraction from excess gas, which has a double positive effect (reduction of carbon emissions and offering to the Ugandan market an alternative safe and healthy way of cooking that could replace the charcoal which contributes to deforestation) and the use of solar electricity to feed some EACOP pumping stations.
To address the residual emissions, we are developing nature-based carbon-neutral sink solutions such as forests, as well as carbon capture and storage.
Our next ambition requires that we jointly achieve neutrality with our customers by working with them to directly reduce their emissions. Though not directly within our control, we can contribute actively to our customers’ choices by providing them with lower-carbon energy products and depending on their consumption patterns, help them use less energy and choose energy sources with lower carbon intensity. Government incentives will play a critical role in these efforts.
Lastly, at the global level, we will expand this carbon neutrality pledge to other regions – like Europe, recently – to ensure we become carbon neutral together. In the meantime, we are moving ahead with our own global ambition to reduce the average carbon intensity of energy products used by customers by more than 60% by 2050, with the interim steps of 15% by 2030 and 35% by 2040 (scopes 1, 2 and 3).
To achieve all these, we require the support of our customers, government and communities in all our host countries.