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Last Updated: April 2016


Map of Kenya
Map of Kenya
  • Kenya currently does not produce any hydrocarbons, although the country has the potential to become an oil producer most likely after 2020. Over the past few years, several commercial oil discoveries have been made in Kenya, but the country faces obstacles that have caused production delays. Negotiations over a joint export pipeline route with its neighbor Uganda is in flux, while sustained low oil prices have slowed down exploration drilling activity in Kenya.

Petroleum and other liquids

  • The United Kingdom-based Tullow is leading exploration activities in onshore northern Kenya, in partnership with the private equity-backed Delonex Energy, Denmark's Maersk Oil, and Canada's Africa Oil. Tullow has discovered more than 600 million barrels of recoverable oil resources in the South Lokichar basin, and Tullow has extended exploration activities to new areas such as the Kerio basin and the North Turkana basin.
  • In December 2015, Tullow submitted a draft Field Development Plan to Kenya's government to develop nine fields in the South Lokichar basin. Crude oil production from the South Lokichar basin is expected to range from 60,000 barrels per day (b/d) to 100,000 b/d.
  • Tullow is targeting a final investment decision by 2017, but this may be pushed back if an export pipeline route is not chosen. Kenya and Uganda had previously agreed in August 2015 to jointly build an export pipeline. The pipeline would carry crude oil from Uganda and Kenya, traveling initially from Uganda's oil-rich Albertine Graben area, through Kenya's South Lokichar basin, and to Kenya's currently undeveloped northern Lamu Port.
  • However, in October 2015, Uganda announced that it was in talks with Tanzania to potentially build a pipeline to Tanzania's coastal port city of Tanga. Tullow has expressed strong desire to resume the original route via Kenya. Paris-based Total, one of the lead investors in Uganda, has reportedly expressed security concerns over the Kenya pipeline route, which helped to prompt Uganda's pivot to Tanzania.
  • Kenya is evaluating different options to export a small amount of crude oil if small-scale production were to start sooner than 2020. Kenya is considering trucking crude oil from Lokichar to Eldoret where the oil would be loaded onto trains, transported to the Mombasa port, and exported via tankers on sea. However, the road from Lokichar to Kitale (on route to Eldoret) needs to be upgraded, and this could take years.
  • In addition to infrastructure planning differences, sporadic local protests at exploration sites have also slowed work in the past. Exploration activities in Kenya have been halted intermittently as a result of locals demanding more employment opportunities. Oil exploration is concentrated in Kenya's Turkana County, an ecologically challenging area that has experienced land conflicts among local pastoralists groups.
  • Kenya plays a critical role as a transit country in East Africa because its neighboring countries depend on petroleum products imported at Kenya's Mombasa Port. Kenya imported over 90,000 b/d of refined oil products in 2014, 20,000 b/d more than the previous year, according to Kenya's National Bureau of Statistics as published by Global Trade Information Services. Product imports come mostly from India and Persian Gulf countries. Kenya has a product pipeline system that transports petroleum products from Mombasa to inland areas. A portion of the petroleum products are sold in Kenya's major cities, and the remainder is sent to neighboring countries via trucks.
  • Kenya used to operate a 35,000 b/d refinery at the Mombasa Port. The refinery, which had been operating well below capacity, shut down in late 2013 and is currently being used for storage. There has been talk to revive refinery operations, but the refinery's future is uncertain. The refinery previously processed Murban heavy crude from Abu Dhabi and other heavy Middle-Eastern crude grades.


  • According to the International Energy Agency's latest 2013 data, 60% of Kenya's population living in urban areas has access to electricity; while a mere 7% of the rural population has access to electricity. Electricity net generation was 8.5 billion kilowatthours in 2013, of which 69% derived from renewable sources (hydro, geothermal, biomass, and wind) and 31% from fossil-fuel sources. The vast majority of the population, particularly in rural areas, relies on traditional biomass and waste (typically consisting of wood, charcoal, manure, and crop residues) for household heating and cooking.
  • Kenya is one of two countries (including Ethiopia) that produce geothermal energy in Africa. In 2013, geothermal accounted for 21% of Kenya's total electricity net generation. Kenya's Great Rift Valley is believed to contain significant amounts of unexploited geothermal resource potential. Kenya currently has three geothermal power plants, with a total generation capacity of 290 megawatts (MW), according to the Kenya Electricity Generating Company.