Energy regulator given a week to probe Kiboko oil spill

Senators grill bosses over the spill that made water from Kiboko River unsafe for consumption

In Summary

• Regulator's MD said he was ‘surprised’ that the newly laid Sh48 billion pipeline from Mombasa to Nairobi did not have a leak detector. 

• Thousands of Makueni residents depend on water from Kiboko River. 

ERC director general Pavel Oimeke during a past function.
ERC director general Pavel Oimeke during a past function.
Image: /FILE

Senators on Tuesday gave the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority seven days to probe the cause of the oil spill in Kiboko, Makueni county.

The legislators criticised the authority’s inaction on the dangerous spillage that has put the lives of the thousands of Makueni residents at risk.

The Senate Energy committee questioned why the regulator has not imposed sanctions on the Kenya Pipeline Corporation which laid the leaking pipeline.

The Nyeri Senator Ephraim Maina-led committee grilled EPRA managing director Pavel Oimeke over the spill that has contaminated Kiboko River, making its water unsafe for human and livestock consumption.

“You are the regulator yet you have not taken any action or even investigated to find out if it was negligence on the part of KPC that led to the spillage,” Maina said.

Oimeke told the committee that he was "surprised" that the newly laid Sh48 billion pipeline from Mombasa to Nairobi did not have a leak detector.

He said the permit issued to KPC during the tendering for the pipeline factored a leak detector.

He claimed that the leak detector component could have been pulled off the tender without the authority’s knowledge.

“I have sent a team of engineers on the ground to conduct an audit on the pipeline to see if it meets the International Standards,” he said.

EPRA petroleum and gas acting director Edward Kinyua said a team from the authority has already on site.

“Preliminary investigations show that the pipeline has proper cathodic protection which is supposed to protect the pipeline from corrosion, but during the laying of the pipeline, a boulder hit the pipeline that damaged part of the supporting protection. That caused localised corrosion, causing the spill,” Kinyua said.

But the chairman ruled him out of order, saying he was contradicting his boss who had admitted that the authority had not probed the incident.

The MD was also put to task over the millions of shillings that KPC used to compensate oil marketers for the loss of the product as it is transported to various destinations.

The committee questioned whether the authority verifies and authenticates the losses and compensations claimed by the marketers and paid out by KPC.

“How do you reconcile these losses provided and figures forwarded by the marketers and KPC to ensure Wanjiku is not paying marketers for cooked up losses?” Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina asked.

Oimeke said the authority keeps records of the oil imported and the stock at KPC and is, therefore, able to authenticate and reconcile claims by the marketers.

He said the authority has since 2016 restricted payments to losses caused by natural occurrences such as evaporation and that it has been kept below 0.11 per cent of the cost of the imported product.

“International Standards state that KPC compensates up to 0.25 per cent of the loss incurred. Anything beyond that is taken care of by the insurance firms,” he said.

Oimeke was also questioned over the rising pump prices of fuel in the country since the beginning of the year.

“Why are Kenyans paying Sh112.03 for Super petrol and Sh104.37 for diesel when our colleagues in Tanzania pay Sh98.13 and Sh95.37 [respectively] for the same products?” Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot asked.

Oimeke explained that landing costs (cost of crude oil from abroad), high taxes, transport and distribution costs and gross margins are the contributing factors to the current prices.

“I want to assure the country that if the landing cost stabilises or reduces, pump prices will also reduce by the corresponding value,” he told the committee.

Edited by R.Wamochie