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French energy major TotalEnergies has commenced commercial drilling at the Tilenga oil project in Uganda, reported Reuters.

The project is situated in the Buliisa and Nwoya districts of Uganda’s Lake Albert oilfields.

TotalEnergies is the operator of the project, with Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) as the partners.

“Drilling of the Tilenga wells began in July 2023, with production scheduled to start in 2025. A total of 420 wells will be drilled at Tilenga,” a spokesperson for TotalEnergies was quoted by the news agency as saying.

GlobalData estimates that the project will produce close to 190,000 barrels per day of crude oil and condensate at its peak in 2028.

The $3.5bn (€2.7bn) East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) will transport oil from the Tilenga refinery to the Port of Tanga in Tanzania for export.

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By GlobalData

Green energy activists and environmental protection organisations have fiercely opposed the Tilenga project.

They argue that oil development, some of which is situated in a national park, and the planned pipeline for crude oil export are harmful to the environment.

“The decision by TotalEnergies and its partners to drill for oil within [Murchison Falls National Park] MFNP, while ignoring the biodiversity conservation, climate change and socioeconomic risks… is a direct contradiction to the global urgency to protect our remaining wild spaces and reduce fossil fuel reliance,” a coalition of environmental pressure groups said.

Five activist groups filed a second lawsuit against TotalEnergies last month regarding the development of the Tilenga oil field and the EACOP.

With a 62% stake, TotalEnergies is the largest shareholder in the EACOP.

The state-run UNOC and Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation are the other two investors, each owning 15% of the EACOP, while China’s CNOOC holds an 8% share.