Tullow faces worker unrest at Turkana exploration sites

BY Jevans N. Miyungu
Updated Sunday, October 12th 2014 at 00:00 GMT +3
Ngamia-1 A general view shows an oil rig used in drilling at the Ngamia-1 well on Block 10BB, in the Lokichar basin, which is part of the East African Rift System, in Turkana County April 5, 2012. Kenya has seen a surge of interest for new oil blocks after striking oil last week, Martin Heya, commissioner of petroleum at the ministry of energy, said on Thursday. The east African country is abuzz with news of its first oil discovery in the dry and dusty northwest town where Africa-focused UK firm Tullow Oil Plc has been exploring. REUTERS/Njuwa Maina (KENYA – Tags: BUSINESS ENERGY)
Turkana; Kenya: Tullow Oil said on Friday it was facing industrial action at a number of its drilling sites in northern Kenya. A local leader said the company had evacuated some workers.
Independent oil and gas explorer Tullow Oil and its partner in northern Kenya, Africa Oil, have struck commercially viable deposits of oil in the Lokichar basin in Turkana, where it has discovered resources of about 600 million barrels.
Tullow did not name the affected sites or say how many there were or whether any drilling work had been interrupted.
“Limited industrial action on employment issues is taking place at a limited number of our sites in northern Kenya. The action concerns the sub-contractors of one of Tullow‘s suppliers,” it said in a statement, adding that it was working with local leaders and the energy ministry to resolve the problems.
Big oil and gas finds along Africa‘s east coast are propelling an exploration boom, but impoverished local communities say they are not getting any of the benefits. “I was informed that there was unrest after employees contracted by Tullow expressed their grievances,” Josphat Nanok, the governor for Turkana County where most of Tullow‘s drilling sites are located, told Reuters. “Some employees and contractors of Tullow have been moved out of the drilling site, and some of them have been taken to Nairobi for safety,” Nanok said.
In October last year, the Africa-focused explorer suspended drilling operations on two blocks in Turkana due to security concerns, after local residents held protests demanding more jobs at the sites. After that, Tullow said it would communicate better in future on how local people would benefit from the oil developments over time.
Tullow and Africa Oil have agreed with the government to start studies on extracting the oil and building an export pipeline, with the aim of getting a development project approved in 2015/16.