(Recasts, adds quotes, information on tax dispute)
CAPE TOWN, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Uganda’s Energy Minister Irene Muloni said on Wednesday she is optimistic the government can resolve a tax dispute with oil companies in time to get first oil flowing by 2023.
Muloni said she expected a final investment decision (FID) from oil companies Tullow, France’s Total and China’s CNOOC by the end of the first quarter next year on an oil export pipeline through neighbouring Tanzania.
The FID on developing the 230,000 barrel per day project, and the pipeline, has been delayed by the tax dispute with the Ugandan authorities but Muloni said the government had offered a solution.
“We have engaged with the companies. We have offered to them a solution,” Muloni said at the Africa Oil Week conference in Cape Town.
“We are hopeful that between now and the end of the year they will re-engage to try to find a solution,” she said, adding that it would enable first oil through the pipeline by 2023.
Tullow’s plan to sell a stake in the project to partners Total and CNOOC was called off in August after the firms failed to reach agreement with Ugandan tax authorities on the tax relief on money Total and CNOOC would have paid to Tullow.
On Wednesday, Tullow Chief Executive Paul McDade told Reuters that the company would not take an FID on the project until they were able to resolve the dispute and sell down their stake.
Once pipeline construction begins, Muloni said it would take 2-1/2 to three years to complete.
She said separately that Uganda invited bidding on five other blocks.
“We want to commercialize our resources.” (Reporting by Noah Browning and Libby George; Editing by Tim Cocks and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)
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