The discovery of viable oil deposits in Turkana, coal deposits in Kitui and gas …. has increased future prospects of cheaper energy to drive industrial growth and create jobs.

The discovery of oil in Turkana in March, 2012, fits in the new plan that is part of Vision 2030.

The oil well at Ngamia-1 (block 10BB) in Turkana was the climax of a journey that started in the 1950s, punctuated with many misses from explorations in North Eastern and Eastern provinces.

The Government, through the National Oil Corporation of Kenya (NOCK), has gazetted 46 blocks for exploration, out of which 44 have been licensed to 23 international oil firms. Two are still open to interested oil companies.

Thirty-nine wells had been drilled and three (Ngamia-1 Block 10BB), Twiga South-1 Block 13T) and Etuko-1 Block 10BB) have sufficient reserves for commercial venture.

Ngong-wind-power-1Tullow, which is spearheading the exploration, has confirmed that oil at Twiga South-1 (block 13T) well, which is 30km from Ngamia-1 well, is commercially viable. Tests indicate that the wells could produce up to 5,200 barrels of crude a day, which is about 800,000 litres of oil a day.

The breakthrough further crowned efforts of a number of stakeholders including the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, National Oil Corporation, KenGen and Geothermal Development Company, which are mandated to ensure reliable, clean and sufficient sources of energy.

As Kenya prepares to become an oil-driven economy, contributions from coal at Mui Basin in Kitui is set to change the supply and cost of power. The Ministry of Energy estimates Mui Basin has coal deposits that would last for 50 years. The mining fields are divided into blocks A, B, C and D. Block C, where, Chinese firm Fenxi Mining Group won mining rights, has about 400 million metric tonnes of coal, which can generate 2,800MW of electricity for 30 years.

The coal deposits are valued at about Kshs3.4 trillion. The value of coal reserves in other blocks is yet to be determined, but indications are clear that Kenya is set to become a major player in the energy sector in the region and the world.

Just like oil, prospecting for coal began in the 1950s after the colonial administration identified Mui Basin as a potential coal mine.

The Ministry for Energy and Petroleum has also stepped up efforts to increase development of a variety of sources of energy including wind, geothermal, solar and hydropower. Other prospects include exploration of natural gas and development of nuclear energy. Gas and oil prospector, Pancontinental, struck major natural gas deposits in Malindi, raising hopes that Kenya could soon start mining gas.

The Australian firm said the deposits at Mbawa-1 well found about 52 metres of gas which is commercially viable.

On the other hand, efforts for Kenya to produce nuclear energy are ongoing. The Government established Nuclear Electricity Project Committee in 2010 to spearhead nuclear energy generation.

Nuclear energy is one of the best methods to produce clean, cheap, safe and reliable electricity. This, alongside renewable energy sources like solar and geothermal, will play a huge role in reducing carbon emissions.

Kenya’s has a rapidly rising demand for energy. For instance in May 2012, maximum daily demand for electricity reached a peak of 1,236MW, up from 1,072MW in 2011. In 2000, demand stood at 708MW.

There are more than 2.1 million homes and businesses served by Kenya Power. At independence, the number of businesses and homes on the national grid was a paltry 80,000.

Kenya could save $71 million (Kshs6.2 billion) per year by substituting 12 per cent (10 per cent of gasoline and two per cent of diesel) of its imports with locally produced biofuels. The country could produce 27,400 MT (32 million litres) of biodiesel annually utilising 50,000 hectares of land.

Jatropha has been identified as the main feedstock for biodiesel production, but other sources include castor, coconut, croton, rapeseed and sunflower.

There is a lot of focus on renewable energy. Local companies, such as Mumias Sugar, and other international investors, have shown great interest in bio-fuel. A draft national biofuel policy strategy was published in 2012. The draft strategy aims at increasing accessibility to energy (through biofuel production) and reducing carbon emissions.

 Nuclear energy

The Government is looking at the prospect of using nuclear energy to power Kenya’s development. In this regard, it is developing the necessary legislation and policy framework to facilitate generation of nuclear energy.

Already, the Atomic Energy Association has agreed to Kenya’s first nuclear plant. The 35,000MW facility is expected to be built at a cost of Kshs914 billion ($10.5 billion) on a 200-acre plot in the Athi Plains, 50km from Nairobi. The Government is in talks with the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), which will supervise the construction and train technicians and other experts to run the plant.