Kenya's 'light and sweet' crude oil has China and India licking from its palm

China and India elbowed out Europe and emerged as the main buyers of the Turkana crude oil that Kenya plans to export under a test programme beginning June.

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Petroleum principal secretary Andrew Kamau told the media that the first sea tankers are expected to dock at the port of Mombasa in June to pick up the consignment currently stored at the Mariakani refinery tanks after it was transported from northern Kenya by road.

“About Europe, let’s just leave it until people have confirmed they will pick it up,” he said in reference to an earlier announcement that buyers had been found in Europe.

Kenya’s crude oil is classified as light and sweet, meaning it has less sulphur (below 0.5 per cent) – an impurity that has to be removed before crude is refined into petroleum.

This type of oil is known to fetch higher prices in the global market because dealers find it easier to refine and it produces high-value products such as petrol and diesel.

It is, however, waxy and sticky, making it necessary to heat it during transportation.

China and India will also have to incur the cost of shipment logistics.

British oil explorer Tullow, has already pumped out and stored 60,000 barrels of crude oil in Lokichar in readiness for transportation to Mombasa.

Kenya plans to move between 2,000 and 4,000 barrels of oil per day using trucks mounted with oil tank-tainers (150 barrels) because as per now a pipeline does not exist.

Crude exports is set to open a new frontier between Kenya and the two Asian powerhouses, which are currently the biggest suppliers of goods to Nairobi.

Until last year India was the top seller of petroleum to Kenya but was overtaken by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

China on the other hand is a big importer of titanium from Kenya. Official data shows that Beijing’s titanium imports from Kenya stood at Sh5.3 billion in the first 10 months of last year, accounting for over 80 per cent of the total imports from Nairobi.

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