Petroleum Exploration History

It has now been confirmed that Uganda’s rift valley basins contain commercially exploitable reserves of oil and gas.  Efforts to explore this extractive and non-renewable resource have been stepped up in the last decade.

Of Uganda’s five sedimentary basins in Uganda (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 earliest reference to oil in Uganda was in reference to an oil seepage near Kibiro on the shores of Lake Albert which was known to the indigenous people who lived in the area. 

The first contribution to the evaluation of the country’s hydrocarbon potential was by E. J Wayland, a Government geologist, who documented numerous hydrocarbon occurrences in the Albertine Graben in the 1920’s.  

Oil exploration continued intermittently through the 1930’s but came to a halt during the Second World War. Serious exploration work commenced again in early 1980’s with the acquisition of aeromagnetic data across the entire Graben and the subsequent follow up  ground geophysical and geological work in the late 1980’s and 1990’s.  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. 

The Early Efforts (Pre-1980)


• Petroleum Potential of Uganda documented by a Government Geologist E.J. Wayland, in the publication “Petroleum in Uganda”, 1925.  This included reporting of the existence of Oil seepages in Uganda.  

1936 -1956: 

• The first shallow stratigraphic wells were drilled by the African – European Investment Company.  

• The first deep well Waki B-1 well was drilled in 1938 in Butiaba, Buliisa.

• Over 20 Shallow wells drilled in Kibiro and Kibuku areas for geological correlation.

• Geological surveys carried out during the 1940’s and 50’s established the presence of sedimentary sequences of clays and silts (Memoirs of the Geological Survey, 1959).

 Period of Limited Activity

 1945 - 1980: 

• Second world -war  sets in;

• Change in policies of colonial masters; East Africa was zoned for Agriculture and West Africa for Oil Exploration by the Colonial masters

• Post-independence political uncertainties and instability in the Country

 Consistent and Modern Efforts (1980 to 2005)


• Acquired 9,578 line km of aeromagnetic data that identified three depo centres along the entire length of the Graben.  


• Petroleum Exploration Project established to spearhead Exploration promotion and Acquisition of Geological and Geophysical data over the Graben.

• The first Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act is enacted (now repealed).


• His Excellency President Yoweri Museveni issues policy direction for the sector on Capacity Building, Data Acquisition and Promotion, and Monitoring of Compliance of License Companies.


• Cooperation Agreement between Uganda and Congo (DRC) for Joint Exploration and Development of Common fields signed


• First Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) between Petrofina Exploration Uganda and Government signed over the entire Albertine Graben. 

• The Petroleum Unit in the Geological Survey and Mines Department of the Ministry transformed into the Petroleum Exploration and Production Department (PEPD). 

• PEPD commences follow up of ground geological and geophysical surveys in areas identified by the aeromagnetic data.  Data acquired was used to:

• Subdivide the Graben into nine (9) smaller Exploration Areas;

• Promote the areas for investment 


• Universities of Colombia, Leeds, Lubumbashi and PEPD acquire gravity data on Lake Albert in an effort to understand the Graben


• Petroleum Exploration and Production Regulations come into force

• Petrofina Exploration Uganda’s license is not renewed.


• Licensing of Exploration Area 3 (Semliki Basin), to Heritage Oil and Gas Limited (HERITAGE).

1998 to 2001:

• HERITAGE acquires the first 2-D seismic data in Uganda (1998) and additional data acquired in Semliki Basin.


• Heritage acquires an additional 228.39 line km of 2-D seismic data in Semliki Basin with identified drillable prospects  and confirmation of structures mapped by gravity and magnetics; 

• Hardman Resources and Energy Africa (now Tullow Oil) is licensed Exploration Area 2 (Northern Lake Albert Basin) 

2002 to 2004:

• Drilling of Turaco-1, 2 and 3 wells by HERITAGE and ENERGY AFRICA  and reaching Total Depth (TD)  of 2,487m, 2963m and 2980m respectively; One of the horizons (zones) was  tested and confirmed presence of natural gas but heavily contaminated by Carbon-dioxide


• Acquisition of seismic data over Lake Albert by Hardman, Energy Africa and Heritage.


• Licensing of Exploration Area 1 to Heritage and Energy Africa (Tullow Oil) in July 2004

• Exploration Area 3A (Semliki basin) relicensed to Heritage and Energy Africa (Tullow Oil) in September 2004.

• Drilling of Turaco-3 well by Heritage and Energy Africa reaching Total Depth (TD) of 2,980m.  

• Acquisition of 390 km2 of 3-D seismic data in Semliki Basin by Heritage


Recent Developments (2005-todate)


• Acquisition of 2-D seismic data over the Kaiso-Tonya area by Hardman and Energy Africa/Tullow Oil and also over the Buhuka/Bugoma area, EA 3A by Heritage.

• Exploration Area 5 (The Rhino Camp Basin) is licensed to Neptune Petroleum (Tower Resources). 

• Drilling of Mputa-1 well by Hardman and Energy Africa Oil in Kaiso-Tonya area becoming the First Discovery Well in the Kaiso-Tonya area 

• Tullow Oil acquires Energy Africa and Hardman Resources


• Dominion Petroleum is licensed to Exploration Area 4B (Lakes Edward and George Basin);


• Cabinet approves the National Oil and Gas Policy for Uganda; its implementation commences.


• Feasibility Study on Refining undertaken by Government; implementation commences

2008 to 2014:

• 21 discoveries made; 116 wells drilled

• 6.5 billion barrels of STOIIP confirmed

• 499 billion cubic feet of gas 

• Several achievements made in implementation of the NOGP


• Oil and Gas Revenue Management Policy approved

• Tullow Oil’s acquisition of Heritage assets is finalised  and Farms down to CNOOC and Total


• The Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Act 2013 and the Petroleum (Refining, Conversion, Transmission and Midstream Storage) Act 2013

• First production licence issued over the Kingfisher field 


• Memorandum of Understanding on Commercialisation signed between Government and Licensed oil companies

Tullow announced a Sale and Purchase agreement (SPA) in which it would transfer its interests to Total.

The National Content policy was developed to promote build capacity and empower Local Ugandan Comppanies in the Oil and Gas Sector. 17 EPC services have been ring fenced for local Ugandan companies incluuding Caterig serviices, Camp Construction, Security, transport, clearing and forwading, hospitality, land survey, customs clearance etc.

Tullow announces a collapse in the negootiations for the sale of its interest to Total and Cnooc.

Tullow agrees to sell its entire interest to Total for 575m USD in cash and post first oil contingent payments.

Uganda joined the Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative in Auguust 2020 as the 54th member.

Key oil agreements; Host Government Agreement (HGA), Tarrif and Transportation Agreement (TTA), Shareholders Agreement (SHA) were signed on the 11th April 2021 paving way for Oil Companies and Government to approve and award contracts for Engineering, Procurement and Construuction conttracts (EPC).

Government in April 2021 approved the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) for the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project on the Ugandan section. This approval paves way for completion of the land aqcuisition processes, Comppensation of Project Affected Persons (PAPs) and resettlement of Project Affected Persons (PAPs). The EACOP traverses 10 districts in Uganda; Hoima, Kikuube, Kakumiro, Kyankwanzi, Mubende, Gomba, Sembabule, Lwengo, Rakai and Kyotera.

Contact Information

Address : Plot 21-29 Johnston Road, Entebbe
Country : Uganda
Telephone : +256 414 320714
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