UNSAFE TERRAIN: Insecurity Grounds Kenya’s Oil Truckers
By NJIRAINI MUCHIRA
KENYA’S Early Oil Pilot Scheme (EOPS) has run into trouble after trucks transporting oil to Mombasa were this week grounded due to security threats.
Trucking of the crude from Turkana to Mombasa for storage is facing a major challenge after community conflicts in northern Kenya grounded operations.
Barely a month after President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the EOPS in Turkana on June 3, bandit attacks between the Turkana and Pokot communities have forced transporters of the crude to halt operations.
Last week, five trucks were forced to return to the Ngamia-8 camp in Lokichar after Turkana protestors blocked the Lokichar-Eldoret road citing rising insecurity in the area.
First fulfil promise
The protestors vowed that no oil will leave the area unless the government fulfils a promise by President Kenyatta to improve security. During the commissioning of the scheme, the president issued a shoot-to-kill order on bandits that terrorise local communities.
“The conflict in the area is between the Turkana and Pokot and has nothing to do with the oil but is affecting the operations of the EOPS,” Petroleum Principal Secretary Andrew Kamau told The EastAfrican.
Charles Wahungu, co-ordinator of the Kenya Civil Society Platform on Oil & Gas, said that the rising insecurity that has grounded the trucks adds yet another twist to the scheme, which the government has been determined to implement despite questions regarding its economic viability.
Apart from insecurity, it has also emerged that Kenya will have to wait longer before exporting its first consignment of crude oil due to the fact that the transport target of 2,000 barrels per day has not been met.
An update by British firm Tullow Oil says that since the launch, the trucks have moved only 600 barrels per day, although the plan is to increase this steadily to 2,000 barrels. The company did not specify how soon the target will be met.
This means that at 600 barrels per day Kenya will take a long time to stock up the 250,000 barrels needed for export. This despite the government’s pledge to ship its first consignment of crude oil to international markets in February next year.
Although the issue of insecurity has been hovering over the scheme since its inception in 2016, the government had promised to address it by ensuring trucks transporting the crude are accompanied by armoured police vehicles.
The grounding of the trucks has not only sent the government back to the drawing board but is also impacting the projections of Tullow Oil, which is desperate to start recouping its investments in Kenya.
The company, which has been pushing for the implementation of the EOPS, has termed the commencement of transfer of the 60,000 barrels stored in Turkana to Mombasa by road a “milestone” on the way to full-scale commercial production in 2021.
CREDIT: The East African