By Nicholas Bariyo
KAMPALA Uganda--The Ugandan government said Monday it had received applications for the development of ten oil fields in the Lake Albertine Rift Basin, as the East African nation continues efforts to commercialize its vast oil fields.
Ernest Rubondo, the head of the state-run Petroleum Exploration and Production department said an evaluation process, of the field development plans and petroleum reservoir reports submitted by U.K.-based Tullow Oil PLC (>> Tullow Oil plc) and France's Total SA (>> Total SA) are in final phases.
The development is a major step forward for the country's oil industry, whose commercialization has been delayed for several years, mainly due to disagreements over development plans and tax disputes.
"Tullow..has to date submitted field development plans and petroleum reservoir reports for eight discoveries...Government has reviewed these submissions and is in discussion with Tullow with regard to content of these submissions." Mr. Rubondo said in a statement.
Company officials couldn't comment immediately.
An official with the energy and minerals ministry said most of the licenses are likely to be approved in the first half of 2014.
Uganda discovered commercial oil in 2006 but a litany of disputes with oil companies, including refining options, crude pipelines and tax assessments continue to push back oil production dates.
Early last year, government finally agreed with oil companies over the construction of a smaller 60,000 barrels-a-day refinery, breaking a nearly two year deadlock.
In September, Uganda issued its first ever oil production license to China's Cnooc Ltd. and the Chinese company is expected to start pumping around 30,000 to 40,000 barrels a day from the Kingfisher oil field by around 2017-18.
Cnooc, Tullow and Total are expected to invest a combined $12 billion to develop the oil fields by 2017.
With the country's crude reserves estimated at 3 billion barrels, Uganda holds Sub Saharab Africa's fourth largest oil reserves, behind South Sudan, Angola and Nigeria.
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