Following the discovery of commercial petroleum reserves in Uganda in 2006, Makerere University in 2009 pioneered teaching and research in petroleum programmes. The programmes are offered in the Department of Geology and Petroleum Studies, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS) at BSc, MSc and PhD levels. As Uganda moves to the next stages of petroleum development, there is need for highly skilled workforce at various stages of exploration, development, production, transportation and refining. However, the progression of teaching and research in these fields has been largely hampered by a serious shortage of sector specific physical infrastructure especially laboratories. There is total lack of specialized equipment to train for upstream, midstream and downstream petroleum operations. According to the Workforce Skills Development Strategy & Plan for the Oil and Gas Sub sector in Uganda (WSDSP), thousands of engineers and managers in the area of control centre operations, as well as geological and petroleum engineering will be required at the development, production processing, transportation and marketing stages in the sector. The education and training institutions therefore have to be equipped in order to meet current and future petroleum skills needs.
Project to identify and set up training infrastructure
Through a project titled, “An assessment to identify research and training laboratory and field equipment and infrastructure for petroleum geosciences and engineering in Higher Educational Institutions of Uganda”, researchers from CoNAS set out to establish a field research station in the Albertine Graben to support practical training in petroleum studies. The Project led by Prof. J.Y.T. Mugisha was supported by Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF). Other members on the project included; Prof. Michael Owor, former Head, Department of Geology and Petroleum Studies, and currently Dean, School of Physical Sciences (Co-PI); Dr John Mary Kiberu, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geology and Petroleum Studies; Mr Willy Kasule and Ms. Suzan Kigozi, technicians in the Department; and Mr. Tonny Mugabi, ICT officer in the Department. The main objective of the project was to identify requisite physical and technological infrastructure for high quality teaching, research and training in various disciplines of the oil and gas sector in Uganda and the East African region.
Commissioning of the Petroleum Field Research Station
As one of the outputs of the project, a Petroleum Field Research Station was set up at Makerere University Biological Field Station (MUBFS) in Kibale. The station was officially commissioned by the Warden Research and Ecological Monitoring, Kibale Conservation area, Ms. Dorothy Kirumira on 6th August 2022.
Once fully equipped, the station will act as a one-stop centre for research and hands-on training for graduates in the oil and gas sector as well as geosciences. In her remarks, Ms. Kirumira informed participants that MUBFS is a global research station that can generate a lot of income for the University.
Speaking at the commissioning ceremony, the Principal Investigator, Prof. J.Y.T Mugisha noted that the country has over 400 petroleum and geosciences graduates with hardly any practical skills due to lack of training equipment. He appreciated the Government of Uganda for the support extended to the project through Mak-RIF.
Besides establishing a field research station, the researchers developed a database of petroleum research and teaching resources across the country. This will support relevant skilling and training for development of petroleum resources to contribute to economic development and the SDGs 4 and 7, quality education as well as affordable and clean energy. Through the project, the researchers intend to develop a funding proposal to support the establishment of requisite infrastructure for oil and gas training in the region.
The project dissemination and commissioning of the field research station was graced by the Head, Department of Geology and Petroleum Studies, Dr Arthur Batte, and officials from Mak-RIF, Ms Evelyne B. Nyachwo, Research Support Officer and Mr. Aziz Agaba from the Finance Department.
Status of facilities at MUBFS and assessment of geology training sites in the Semliki Basin.
Briefing participants on the status of facilities at MUBFS, the Assistant Domestic Bursar, Mr. Kato Innocent called for renovations on the computer lab, library, shower rooms and improvement of internet connectivity.
Besides the commissioning ceremony, participants toured facilities at MUBFS, and conducted an assessment of the study sites for geology students in the Semliki basin. The team also toured facilities at the Uganda Technical College- KIchwamba and engaged the Deputy Principal, Mr. Milton K. Mumbogwe on possible areas of collaboration including internship.
Proposed areas for further funding
- Exploring alternative field study and research areas across the country;
- Camp site ICT materials including remote access of database;
- Cataloguing all geoscience resources of academic institutions and industry;
- Database up-grading to cater for robust database engine;
- Refurbishment of sanitary facilities at MUBFS;
- Key field equipment, for example GPS, altimeters;
- Living quarters for field classes and researchers.