OPINION: Total is set to award a major contract for construction of upstream facilities at its 230,000-barrel per day Tilenga oil project in Uganda, a key milestone for a development that will arguably be President Yoweri Museveni’s major economic legacy to a nation he has ruled for decades.

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However, there have been serious questions about the project’s carbon legacy and where it sits in Total’s energy transition strategy.

Most oil — up to 216,000 bpd — produced from Tilenga and CNOOC International’s nearby Kingfisher field will be exported via the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) that will terminate at Tanga port in Tanzania, with the rest going to a new refinery in Uganda.

Tilenga’s 230,000-bpd processing plant will need significant power to run, as will the 1443-kilometre EACOP, which must be heated to keep the oil flowing.

Even so, Total’s upstream boss Arnaud Breuillac said this week that Tilenga’s carbon footprint will be less than the average of its global upstream assets.

Speaking in a CERAWeek by IHS Markit panel, he said Tilenga’s emissions will be about 13 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide per barrel of oil produced, below Total’s average project carbon intensity of about 20kg per barrel.

Breuillac did not discuss EACOP’s emissions, but Total will use solar panels to power compression stations along its route.

In the face of a campaign by activists to force banks to reconsider funding EACOP, the project remains on course to start up in 2024, reinforcing forecasts that oil will be needed for decades to come.

(This is an Upstream opinion article.)