Kenya may start using natural gas for power generation before end of 2018

The country has awarded Zarara Oil & Gas Ltd licenses to immediately start drilling two wells of natural gas on Pate Island off the coast of Lamu.

The country has awarded Zarara Oil & Gas Ltd licenses to immediately start drilling two wells of natural gas on Pate Island off the coast of Lamu.

The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) approved environmental licences effectively giving the company the green light to start the well-sinking process.

Nema’s director-general Geoffrey Wahungu said Zarara is required to undertake exploratory drilling at an estimated cost of $159 million.

Kenya is keen to expedite commercial gas production for power generation and reduce the country’s dependence on expensive hydro and thermal power, as a result the company has been given strict deadlines by the Ministry of Energy to start drilling Pate 2 by the end of the year and thereafter `begin drilling of Pate 3.

Sinking of Pate 2 well is expected to take 120 days to drill and the company has said it has started mobilising Greatwall Drilling Company Ltd’s drilling rig, which is already in the country.

North Sea Well Engineering Ltd of Norway is the design and planning company.

Zarara which is a fully-owned subsidiary of Midway Resources International (MRI) licences will run until July 2019.

In order to ensure minimum interruptions, Kenya Oil and Gas Working Group (KOGWG) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have rolled out a programme to manage the expectations of the local community in Lamu to avoid the Pate project being abandoned by the investor.

“The community is being trained on mitigating perceived risks and engaging in alternative dispute resolution mechanism to avoid confrontations as excess demands can scare away an investor,”  KOGWG’s Network Co-ordinator Muturi Kamau said.

There are fears, however, that the drilling may negatively affect the livelihoods of farmers growing mangoes, maize, vegetables and coconuts.

“We are worried about what will happen to farmers whose land is next to the drilling site of the wells. A commercial discovery could affect the lifestyle of the people,” said Pate Marine Community Conservancy (PMCC) chairman Mohammed Hussein.

Currently, Tanzania — which has discovered 57.6 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas both onshore and offshore — is the only country in East Africa using natural gas to generate power and plans to use the commodity for fertiliser production.

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