Oil exploration in Turkana resumes as workers end strike

An oil rig at Ngamia 1 where Tullow Oil Company discovered oil last year.  Photo/Jared Nyataya
An oil rig at Ngamia 1 where Tullow Oil Company discovered oil last year. Photo/Jared Nyataya 

Oil exploration in Lake Turkana has resumed as striking workers reported back to duty after the government promised to form a taskforce to resolve their grievances.

The workers carrying out seismic surveys at block 10 BA in Kalookol called off the strike after Labour minister John Munyes said a task force will hold talks with their employer BGP, a UK firm contracted by Tullow Oil to carry out the surveys.

Tullow Oil, also a UK company, is prospecting for oil in Turkana where it has already found deposits at two wells, but whose commercial viability is yet to be established.

The more than 300 workers including Kenya Police Reservists had gone on strike last week to protest over alleged harassment, low wages and lack of insurance cover.

“All that we need is proper pay, risk cover and allowance while doing seismic work in the lake,” said Amos Ekaal, one of the employees.

Mr Munyes visited the Kalokool BGP site on Monday and promised to constitute a task force to resolve the matter, a move that was welcomed by Tullow oil official Yubin Liu.

The police reservists and Administration Police Officers guard BGP employees against attacks by militias.

The industrial unrest is the latest setback to hit oil explorers in northern Kenya at a time when the community wants better roads, schools and hospitals, improved security, credit for entrepreneurs, to be given priority in employment and equitable sharing of revenues from the oil finds.

“The government needs to provide capital to Turkana people to invest in businesses and educate their children for them to benefit from the oil discovery and compete with the rest of Kenyans,” said Eliud Emeri during the international conference on oil and gas exploration held in Nairobi.

The meeting brought together Turkana leaders and stakeholders from the energy sector.

Tullow Oil discovered 30 metres of net oil pay at the Twiga-1 well in Block 13T in May, which is about 22 kilometres to the north of Ngamia-1 where other deposits were discovered earlier in the year.

The firm said it has encountered a tight fractured rock section with hydrocarbon shows of 796 metres deep but more tests needed to be done to ascertain the extent of the fractures and if the oil can actually flow through.

In a statement to the press, Tullow Oil said Twiga-1 has been drilled to a total depth of 3,250 metres and has been successfully logged and sampled.

“Three sandstone reservoir zones, similar to Ngamia-1, have been encountered and moveable oil, with a density (API rating) greater than 30 degrees, has been recovered to surface,” said the statement in part.