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A Sneak Peek at the East African Crude Oil Project Details :: Uganda Radionetwork

A Sneak Peek at the East African Crude Oil Project Details

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The Petroleum Authority and the developer reveal how Artificial intelligence and Satellite Technology will minimize human intrusion, and environmental damage, and ensure real-time monitoring of the entire pipeline.
24 Nov 2023 17:18
EACOP Security Coordinator, David Francis Muramuzi, at a site where CNOOC has placed its 24-inch diameter pipes that will feed crude into EACOP pipeline in Kabaale. Credit Wambi Michael /URN

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Developers of East African crude oil plan to deploy artificial intelligence to monitor the over 1400-kilometer pipeline from Kabale in Hoima to the Port of Tanga in Tanzania.

With Artificial Intelligence or AI, the operators of the pipeline will be able to detect any leakage or tampering in real-time and respond.

The Petroleum Authority of Uganda – the regulator of the oil and gas sector and the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline Project operator confirmed that this new technology will be deployed on the longest heated crude oil pipeline.

Worldwide, Artificial intelligence (AI) is permeating the energy industry, particularly the oil/gas pipeline sector. There have been fears the pipeline in Uganda and Tanzania could be targeted by oil thieves as in Nigeria where stolen crude oil is processed through illicit mini refineries.

Equally, there have been fears that leakages from the pipeline could flow undetected to damage the environment and surrounding ecosystems.

Managing Director, of East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) Ltd, Martin Tiffin confirmed that the pipes for the proposed pipeline will have technologies to detect loss of heat, leakages, and tampering by humans.   “We don't think that Uganda will be like Nigeria. For two reasons, one the pipeline itself is like the 21st century pipeline. So we will have a fiber optic cable that will run on top of the pipeline and enable us to transmit the data and also help us to monitor the pipeline for attempts of intrusion or whatever,” revealed Tiffin. 

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He further explained that unlike the oil in Nigeria which can easily flow, the oil in Uganda is waxy and requires constant heat for it to flow.

“It actually needs to through a big refinery to be tuned in petrol, diesel, or kerosene,” he said.  URN has been able to see part of the pipes at the first construction camp located in Kabaale Hoima.

They are designed like a thermos flask to preserve heat, they are fitted with to node for tapping electricity to heat the pipeline among others. It will be insulated so that it does not lose the heat. It will be heated up to 50 degrees.

EACOP Project Lead, Lawrence Ssempagi revealed that there will be a fiber optic cable running through the length of the pipeline.“There will be a 24-hour manning to check. Imagine if that crude oil comes out, the fiber optic cable will detect the temperature,” he explained.  

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The fiber optic cable will also be available for the two governments to tap into and use it in their data transmissions. The pipeline will be buried underground between 1.6 to 1.8 meters below the ground. “Under the roads, it will be buried deeper but it will not be easy to find,” Ssempagi explained.

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“When I look at the system, this oil will never have a spillage under there. Probably at the above-the-ground installations. In the event that that oil flows out, it will encounter the normal temperatures below fifty degrees. At 27, degrees this oil does not flow” Ssempagi explained further.

The pipeline will be laid under the beds of river Kafu in Kakumiro, then through river Nabakazi closer to where the Kampala-Kasese railway line used to cross towards Mubende. The other crossing on the Ugandan side is at Katonga. The Pipeline will also cross river Sigi in Tanzania.

A technology known as the typical horizontal drilling method will used to cross the rivers while auger drilling will be used to cross the pipeline under the road crossing. According to the design, there will be an open cut through wetlands-meaning that the pipes will still be buried under the wetland and then be restored.

Joseph Mukasa, the Environmental Specialist at the East African Crude Oil Pipeline told URN that measures have been put in place to ensure that they don't take a lot of time when laying pipes through the papyrus.

"Of course, we have an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). But as you know, seasons change and at times what is on the ground changes. So before we do the crossing, the environment team will go ahead and assess how the situation is. Sometimes you find that it is not wise to cross at that particular point in that season" Mukasa added “That is why we advise that such points are actually crossed in the dry season. So the environment team will go ahead to establish the conditions and then with the engineering team we will plan how to cross the wetland"  

This is the first time that EACOP and the Petroleum Authority are coming out to explain deeply some of the technical specifications of the pipeline whose construction is expected at the beginning of next year.

There have been local and international campaigns about EACOP initially over environmental concerns and later over human rights. The Petroleum Authority on Friday issued a statement confirming that the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP will cost about USD 4 billion.

Dozith Abeinomugisha, Director in charge of Midstream developments at the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) said with its extensive fiber-optic network allowing online connectivity, EACOP promises to be one of the world’s smartest and safest bulk pipelines with real-time monitoring along its entire length via satellite.

He said safety staff will be able to detect any pressure change indicative of a leak, sabotage, or pilfering within seconds and isolate the relevant section of pipe to keep any environmental damage and commercial loss to a minimum.

He revealed that the Authority and EACOP’s holding company will have real-time monitoring centers at their respective offices to receive immediate updates via satellite uplink.

"This means that monitoring is not dependent on local mobile phone or radio networks, guaranteeing greater reliability,” he said.

The Ugandan section will be entirely carbon neutral with electricity heating while the Tanzanian side will have 80MW of solar as well as hydro power providing all the power needed. The PAU observes that the design and construction of EACOP, which began in 2018, has been one of the greatest challenges of African infrastructure engineering in recent history.

Heating cables will run down the entire length of the pipe using a technology known as Long Line Heat Tracing (LLHT) which works on a similar principle as a kettle element, using resistance to generate heat when an electric current passes through a specially chosen high resistance filament.  

The route was chosen to minimize disruption to the local population and the environment, but this met a challenge close to the coastline where a steep slope in the terrain could potentially cause surges in pressure as the crude oil flows downhill at high angles.

Two pressure reduction stations were added to the design to maintain the pressure for the project’s high safety standards.

“Local farmers and residents were consulted in both Uganda and Tanzania where the pipeline cuts across their land. Public information campaigns were launched to offer compensation to legitimate claimants for loss of land, assets such as buildings, and grazing rights,” adds Ali Ssekatawa, Director for Legal and Corporate Affairs at PAU.

In Uganda, the number of people affected is 3,660, and in Tanzania, 9,513. To date, 90 percent in Uganda have accepted compensation packages, including 177 who have opted for new homes resettling them away from the pipeline.

Negotiations continue but in the case of a failure to agree between EACOP planners and residents, both countries have a legal regime under which land can be acquired by the government through a transparent process of compulsory acquisition and compensation With the two already-licensed production areas covering the Tilenga and Kingfisher projects, both located in western Uganda around Lake Albert, scheduled to peak at 230,000 barrels a day production.

The country is planning to build its own refinery to deal with its own consumer demand for petrol and other products, one that will use up to 60,000 barrels a day, meaning at the current planned peak EACOP will pump 170,000 barrels per day.

Work is already advanced on the pumping stations, work camps, and storage facilities along the EACOP route as well as the coating plant.

The first 100 km of pipe (5,600 sections each 18m in length) has been manufactured in China and is expected to arrive by ship in the Tanzanian hub port of Dar es Salaam early in the New Year. After coating and welding the first sections of pipe are due to be laid midway through next year.