Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter
Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter announced the suspension of the start of transportation of crude oil to Mombasa just hours before the Government’s self-imposed deadline.
The Government had set June 30 as the date for the first batch of the 40,000 barrels of crude oil produced by Tullow Oil Company in Turkana to be ferried from the site to the coastal city.
Mr Keter said at a press briefing in his office yesterday that the Government would shelve the plans until the Senate passes the Petroleum Exploration and Production Bill, which stipulates how both the national and county governments and the local community would share revenues from the resource.
This means the earliest Kenya can export oil is after the August 8 General Election, when new senators will be sworn in.
“We have postponed the plan until the Petroleum Exploration and Production Bill is approved by the Senate,” said the CS.
However, recent insecurity incidents in Turkana that seemed targeted at the oil fields have heightened fears that Tullow Oil could suspend its exploration activities.
An exclusive story in The Standard yesterday detailed how, for close to a month now, the British-owned exploration company has been unable to gain access to two of its sites where 40,000 barrels of oil, the first batch of crude to be shipped to Mombasa, are stored.
The company said its employees had been barred from gaining access to Nakukulas Tullow Community Resource Centre and the Ngamia 3 and Ngamia 8 oil fields.
In a letter to the Turkana County Commissioner, Tullow protested at what it called ‘economic sabotage’.
“Further harassment of the company’s workers in the course of their duties is likely to lead to skilled labour shortage and potential slowdown and likely suspension of oil and gas operations in Turkana County,” warned the firm.
Further, one of the seven companies contracted to upgrade the Kitale-Turkana road that leads to the oil fields has suspended work after its employees were attacked. There is speculation that the attacks are aimed at stalling the oil evacuation process.
But Mr Keter dismissed concerns that the attacks may have informed the decision to suspend transportation of the oil, saying insecurity is not a new thing in the region.
“There is insecurity in every part of the country. Even in Turkana itself, we have had many insecurity incidents in the past even before oil exploration and drilling started,” he said.
Prime Fuels Kenya, Multiple Hauliers, and Oilfield Movers last month bagged the Sh1.5 billion tender to transport the oil to Mombasa under the Early Oil Pilot Scheme.
Tullow Oil Country Manager Martin Mbogo, who accompanied the CS, sought to allay fears that the suspension would increase the costs, saying the agreements with the transport firms were flexible.