OPINION: Tullow Oil’s decision to look to renewables to help supply back-up power for its 80,000 barrels per day Lokichar oil project in Kenya could be the catalyst for similar strategies in East Africa and beyond.
About 40% of Kenya’s power comes from geothermal sources in the East Africa Rift System (EARS), supplanted by wind projects in places such as Turkana County, so the rationale behind Tullow’s evaluation makes sense.
While Tullow’s baseload power needs will be met from associated gas produced with Lokichar’s oil, tapping into Kenya’s electricity grid will help reduce carbon emissions.
In an onshore Africa context, this yet-to-be-approved scheme equates to Norway’s power-from-shore directive that calls for offshore facilities to be connected to a domestic grid supplied by hydropower.
Perhaps Total and CNOOC International could follow Tullow’s’ lead and identify renewable power sources to underpin Uganda's Tilenga-Kingfisher project.
After all, their oilfields lie in EARS’s western arm, which hosts significant geothermal potential — albeit this resource has yet to be properly explored in Uganda.
If other viable hydrocarbon fields are found in East Africa, geothermal could help power future developments throughout the region.
But the EARS geothermal blessing is not the only energy game in town for Africa.
Governments should evaluate the vast geothermal potential of onshore sedimentary basins that could provide power to 600 million biomass-reliant African consumers.
Now that would be a game-changer.
(This is an Upstream opinion article.)