Construction of Kabaale International Airport in Hoima commences

DAILYNEWS UG |Kabaale, Hoima|
Construction of a special purpose airport to facilitate the delivery of heavy, long and sensitive equipment to be utilized in Uganda’s planned oil refinery and other oil related facilities is underway in Hoima, close to Lake Albert.

The proposed Kabaale International Airport, to be built on 174.2 acres of land within the proposed refinery, is expected to be in operation by 2021.

When completed, it would be the country’s second international airport, after Entebbe International Airport. The airport is located in Kabaale Parish, Buseruka sub-county, Hoima District, near the Kaiso-Tonya oil fields and the Uganda Oil Refinery.

Phase 1 will include an airport servicing cargo aircraft and passenger aircraft for the construction and operation of the refinery and oil fields.

The first phase of the project is expected to last between 17-24 months covering construction of a Runway (which can handle big and heavy aircraft), Taxiway, Apron, multi-purpose Terminal Building for Cargo and Passengers, Fire Station, Car Park, Access Road, Perimeter fence and Electrical Centre, among other facilities.

In the medium and the long-term the airport will undergo further development to function as Uganda’s second international airport servicing both cargo and passenger traffic.

The airport will be designed to support the operation of large aircraft like the AN124 and Boeing 747- 800 as well as all types of wide body and medium sized passenger and cargo aircraft.

The Masterplan for Kabaale International Airport in Hoima was completed last year and a 3 year plan for its development in liaison with the Ministry of Works and Transport and other stakeholders has started.

Bush clearing, road construction starts

Bush clearing, construction of access roads and fencing off the 29 sq. km that the airport will occupy have started, according to a team of East African Business Week that visited the site in May, 2018.

Ministry officials visit the site (top), and above, clearing of the ground
has started in Kabaale.

“The runway, measuring 3.5km long and 75m wide,  will be provisionally opened in 2020 to allow for the landing of Antonovs and Boeing 777s that will carry the oil refinery fleets and other equipment,” Mihail Gorachinov the Senior Development Manager SBI told DailyNewsUg . The contractors for the airport are SBC/SBI Llodys British International.

Phase II will involve further development of the airport to service increased commercial passenger flights and cargo flights for the fish and flower export industry. These include for instance expansion of passenger and cargo terminals, a new parallel taxiway and expansion of apron.

With the anticipated growth of the oil industry in the region, the airport on completion will additionally facilitate the rising movement of people to and from the region and grow the area’s tourism potential given the many tourist attractions in the vicinity.

Dr. Micheal Nkambo Mugerwa, the General Manager Uganda National Oil Company who are overseeing the Airport Development works together with the ministry of Works and Transport told  DailyNewsUg recently that the airport would be a large international airport capable of handling large passenger and cargo aircraft, sufficient to carry the equipment and staff to develop the Uganda Oil Refinery and the oilfields.

To fund the project, in January 2018, the UK lenders Standard Chartered Bank with guarantees from the United Kingdom Export Finance, secured €307 million.

In February 2018, Shikun & Binui, a construction firm based in Israel were picked to construct this airport, at a cost of US$309 million. The construction will be undertaken by Solel Boneh International Holdings (SBI), the international arm of Shikun & Binui.

A history of Oil in Uganda

Oil exploration has been on-going in the Albertine Graben since the 1920’s. Commercially viable oil and gas deposits were discovered in the Albertine Graben in Western Uganda (Sensitivity Atlas for the Albertine Graben, 2010).  The discoveries are in the area east of Lake Albert and the Nile Delta north of Lake Albert in Hoima, Buliisa and Nwoya Districts.

Oil exploration and production activities so far indicate that the oil potential in this area is promising. For example, out of the 34 oil and gas wells that have been drilled, only 2 have been found without oil. Furthermore, the productivity prospects in the area are reasonably high; for instance the buffalo prospect alone can produce 400 million barrels of oil with estimated revenue 15 times the Uganda’s current expenditure.

The estimated reserves in the Albertine Graben as a whole are about 2 billion barrels. The size of the reserves is enough to sustain production for 20 years (Sensitivity Atlas for the Albertine Graben, 2010).

A pipeline to Tanga on the Indian Ocean coast from Hoima has also been agreed between Uganda and Tanzania.

The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) is 1,445 kilometres in length, of which 296 kilometres (184 mi) (21 percent) is in Uganda and 1,149 kilometres (714 mi) (79 percent) in Tanzania.

The pipeline will measure 24 inches (61 cm) in diameter and will be insulated and heated and is expected to cost US$3.55 billion.


Case for an airport

It against this background that a Uganda refinery study (MEMD 2010) was carried out to establish the feasibility of constructing a refinery in Uganda to facilitate utilization of the country’s oil and gas resources. The study recommended that a refinery be constructed close to the oil fields to avoid lengthy and costly pipelines and to optimize the value accruing out of the resources.

The study further recommended, among the required infrastructure, the development of an aircraft runway local to the refinery location, capable of accommodating large cargo airplanes with carrying capacity of 112 – 250 tonnes and with ability to accommodate take-off runs of at least 3,500m.

The Government of Uganda (GoU), represented by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) and through the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) as the implementing agency supported by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), proposed to construct an airport in Hoima District.

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