INTERVIEW: We Need More Engagements With Government - Petroleum Students

Anita Badagawa is a final year student of Petroleum Geosciences and Production at Makerere University COURTESY PHOTO Anita Badagawa is a final year student of Petroleum Geosciences and Production at Makerere University

Anita Badagawa is a final year student of Petroleum Geosciences and Production at Makerere University. She currently represents the petroleum students as the President of the Makerere University (MUK) Society of Petroleum Engineers Student Chapter. She shared with EarthfindsSam Jumbwike their dream for the Oil and Gas Sector in Uganda

Tell more about the Makerere University Society of Petroleum Engineers/Students Chapter. How did it come about?

Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) MUK Student Chapter was basically created under the SPE Uganda Section to extend the arms and influence of the Society of Petroleum Engineers International (SPEI) in Petroleum Institute. The SPEI consists of 168, 000 members in 144 countries and about 368 Student Chapters worldwide. SPE membership includes more than 68, 000 student members.

Our Mission is to collect, disseminate, exchange technical knowledge concerning the exploration, development and production of Oil and Gas resources and related technologies for public benefit to both Students and Professionals.

On top of the above, the SPE Makerere Student Chapter aims to develop professional awareness among members and other Students doing degrees that are relevant to the Oil and Gas sector. We promote social and academic interaction among Geosciences and Engineering and promote unity among all engineering disciplines in conjunction with Geosciences Students’ Societies.

As of now, what are some of the things that you have undertaken as an association to fulfill your objectives?

We have organized recruitment drives to enroll more student members. We have had collaborative projects with Makerere Engineering Society, held distinguished lectures from Petroleum Engineering Professionals, built models for study purposes, sensitized people, undertaken trips to attend conferences on Oil and Gas in leading Oil Companies across the globe, and we recently organized the Oil and Gas forum that took place at Protea Hotel.

Petroleum Geosciences and Production is relatively new in Uganda. Where did your lecturers come from?

Yes it is true it is a new course, however we have had the Geology Department for a longer time and since half of our curriculum as petroleum students consists of geology related course units, lecturers to handle that were available.  

Now for the rest of the curriculum, we have had visiting lecturers of Petroleum Engineering from Oil Companies like Total, CNOOC, Tullow Oil Uganda and also government technocrats from the Directorate of Petroleum at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development.

Can you sum up what Petroleum Students at MUK are taught for the entire course?

Throughout the course we study Petroleum Engineering, Drilling Engineering, Health and Safety, Reservoir Engineering, Geology, Drilling Fluids and Geo-Physics among others.

What are some of the challenges that you face as Petroleum Students?

There is inadequate exposure while undertaking the course mostly due to lack of instrumentation and equipment in laboratories. For instance we study quite a number of things that require hands on exposure and experience; however it is nearer to impossible to have an opportunity to learn with practice.

The software to work with is inadequate. Most of the data we deal with has to be worked on using licensed software that is only available in big Oil Companies abroad and rare to find here. There is also less communication from government concerning the Oil Sector.

Is this having an effect on your competitiveness?

Yes it is. There are few Petroleum Engineers that have studied in Uganda that can actually compete with the ones that have studied for example at Heriot Watt University. This is affecting us in that most of the operating companies are hiring expatriates to do the engineering work available.

We are not having enough practice to be in position to compete with the expatriates that are being brought into the country to do the engineering works in the Oil and Gas operations.

What advice do you have for government if we are to do better?

Government must beef up local capacity in the Oil and Gas Sector. All Oil and Gas Faculties at Universities and Institutes in Uganda should be furnished with efficient laboratories and enough equipment like Microscopes for Christolographical studies, Thin Sectioning Equipment, and Geo-Physical Equipment.

Also Oil and Gas Students should have enough study trips and be availed with the best Lecturers in the Petroleum Industry. The 6.5 billion barrels of Oil in place with about 1.5 billion barrels recoverable is good news to the economy of Uganda.

The revenues from the Oil industry will boost development in almost all the other sectors and this will place Uganda at a better chance of becoming a middle income country. The current Oil and Gas Regulations are good; they just need a lot more professional people to implement them in order to enable sustainable Management of Uganda’s Oil Resource.

From what we have studied, we have a lot to offer to our country in terms of building the Oil and Gas industry through proper regulations, good policy, good management to ensure that the Oil Resource is not misused in order to avoid the Oil Curse and above all ensuring that the Oil will benefit every Ugandan.

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