Kenya halts piped cooking gas plan

Kenya has halted its plan to introduce piped cooking gas in residential homes over safety concerns, lack of appropriate infrastructure and lack of gas reserves.

This comes as Tanzania, which has an estimated 57 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, said it had set aside $5 million for connecting natural gas to more than 1,000 households for domestic use in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam starting July.

Tanzania’s Energy Minister Medard Kalemani said the project, currently in phase one, will take two years to implement and will connect natural gas to households in Kigamboni, Mbagala and Mkuranga areas.

The project is meant to reduce use of imported liquid gas and charcoal as President John Magufuli works on a plan to turn the country into a middle income industrial economy in 2025.

Kenya does not have natural gas and Petroleum Cabinet Secretary John Munyes told The EastAfrican that the piped cooking gas project is not sustainable because of relying on imported gas mainly from Mozambique and Tanzania.

“It is a good plan but do we have gas reserves in the country? Where are we going to tap the gas from? I think the government must complete its exploration for gas reserves first and if the country has enough gas reserves then this project can be viable,” said Mr Munyes.

“We also have to dig big underground gas tunnels that will not be compromised by other underground water pipes and drainage systems. There is a lot to be done,” he added.

Mr Munyes also raised concerns over the safety of the piped cooking gas saying there is still no guarantee that unscrupulous dealers will not tap the underground gas pipes.

Safety by-laws

He said county governments should come up with safety by-laws for housing developers in low and middle-income residential areas.

The government’s change of heart comes barely a year after the Energy Regulatory Commission announced in August 2017 that it was working on a plan that would require housing developers of gated communities to include piped gas systems in their constructions — similar to other essential services such as electricity and water systems.

The energy regulator said the real estate developers would be obligated to have infrastructure to distribute the gas within the housing projects, including a central bulk storage facility and pipes to individual houses which would be fitted with metres to measure the monthly consumption of gas.

The system would be operated by a liquefied petroleum gas marketer, which in addition to refilling gas would also be charged with safety of the system.

“We will make this gas system a requirement for gated communities in the future, but this is a long-term plan,” said Pavel Oimeke Energy Regulatory Commission director-general.

Cooking gas in Kenya is currently sold in cylinders ranging from 3kg to 50kg. Piped gas is commonly used in South Africa and Egypt.

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