LNG in Kenya – SSPA supports the introduction of LNG into East Africa

Kenya plans to introduce gas, and SSPA Sweden AB has been given the assignment to support this introduction. Kenya currently depends on oil for its electricity production. With a low electrification rate, the Government of Kenya has clearly stated that the electrification of the country will increase, and an increased demand for energy is predicted. The energy company Great Lakes Energy Africa Ltd is planning to introduce LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) into Kenya by placing an FRSU (Floating Storage and Regasification Unit) in Mombasa. SSPA has been contracted to perform a feasibility study as one of the major decision-support documents for the introduction. The objective of the study has been to look at the technical, operational, practical, risk and safety aspects of introducing LNG, and to present recommendations for the optimal way of establishing LNG as an energy source in Kenya.

Kenya has a clear dependency on oil when it comes to production of electricity. The Government of Kenya has a strong environmental ambition and would prefer a more environmentally friendly energy source. Shifting from fossil fuel to a fuel with a lower environmental impact is positive. LNG consists of natural gas and is as such a fossil fuel, but since the emissions are lower than when using oil, the transfer to LNG can still be seen as an environmental gain for society as a whole.

Energy use in Kenya

The energy sector in Kenya is largely dominated by petroleum and electricity (mainly produced from hydro and fossil fuels), with wood fuel supplying the basic energy needs of the rural communities, the urban poor, and the informal sector: wood fuel and other biomass account for 68% of the total energy consumption (petroleum 22%, electricity 9%, others 1%). The sectors that consume energy are households, industry, public facilities, and transport.

The energy sector is a substantial part of Kenyan society. The sector provides direct and indirect employment to an estimated 16,000 people. 

The total population of Kenya was about 44 million people in 2013, of which the rural population was about 75%. Kenya has about 8.7 million households, according to national statistics. Of these households, almost 1 million are in Nairobi. The total number of households (urban and rural) that have access to electricity is somewhere between 15 and 25%. Only about 1% of rural households were connected in 2002. There is a clear political will in Kenya to increase electrification in the country. Vision 2030 states that all citizens should have electricity by 2030. To meet this demand, the projected installed capacity should increase gradually from the present approx. 2,000 MW up to 19,200 MW by 2030.

Floating Storage and Regasification Unit (FSRU)

In line with the Kenyan Government’s environmental ambition, the company Great Lakes Energy Africa Ltd is planning to introduce LNG into Kenya by using an FSRU (Floating Storage and Regasification Unit) in the Port of Mombasa for storage and regasification of the LNG.

The FSRU will be located within the Port of Mombasa, the largest port in Kenya and a regional hub for international trade. The Port of Mombasa serves East and Central Africa with imports and exports.

The proposed FSRU is a conversion of a standard LNG Carrier, and is of standard size: it has a tank storage capacity of about 160,000 m3.

The FSRU is equipped with regasification, and can therefore supply either LNG or natural gas to shore. Regasification is the process of converting LNG gas from its liquid state to a gaseous state. Seawater is generally used for the regasification process, as would be the case in Mombasa. LNG or gas would be supplied from the FSRU either by pipeline or truck.

Power plants

The national ambition of increasing electrification in Kenya includes plans to build a large number of additional power plants during the next 10-15 years. These power plants, in addition to existing plants, may well run on LNG if this is introduced into the country.

For the power plants that are located a long distance from the port of Mombasa, and from the FSRU, for example in the Nairobi area, fuel will be delivered to the power plant by truck. The fuel will be LNG, in order to minimise the volumes transported. These power plants will therefore need to develop storage tanks for LNG.

Only the power plants in the port area, the existing Kipevu power plants or future newly built plants will allow delivery of fuel via a pipeline. The delivery will consist of natural gas, and storage of LNG is therefore not needed for the power plants in the port.

Other sectors

The primary objective of the introduction of LNG into Kenya is to use it as fuel for producing electricity. However, the environmental benefits of LNG are valid for any use: LNG used as a fuel for industrial use has the same environmental benefits as with electricity production.

The targeted sectors are those with significant levels of energy consumption, mainly tea production, or as fuel for maritime transports.

LNG as a fuel in shipping is therefore the most analysed and developed sector for LNG usage by far. There are a number of reasons why the maritime sector is looking into LNG as a marine fuel:

  • ECA regulations – IMO has introduced environmental regulations (Emission Control Areas) in some areas of the world, and are planning more ECAs. In these areas, the quantities of different substances allowed in marine fuels are regulated. LNG is one of the fuels that comply with these regulations.
  • Environmental benefits – as the maritime industry is working hard to create a more environmentally friendly maritime sector, and to escape its reputation of being a “dirty” shipping business, the use of LNG considerably improves the environmental performance of shipping.
  • Costs – depending on the cost of LNG and the cost of oil, LNG may contribute to economic savings for the user. However, this is highly dependent on trends in fuel prices.

Possibilities and challenges for LNG in Kenya

As in most parts of the world, shifting some of the oil consumption to LNG would be of benefit for Kenya. However, a stakeholder discussion on whether this is positive or not can be expected, since LNG is still a fossil fuel. Some negative aspects of LNG and natural gas in Kenya would be the relatively high risk of accidents on the road with truck transports of LNG, and the risk of theft and sabotage of gas pipelines. The optimal method for minimising negative impacts, used in many countries, would be to include the citizens in the process at an early stage. A sense of ownership is achieved through community and stakeholder participation, thus paving the way for better understanding, smoother implementation and improved safety during operation.

Countries surrounding Kenya may potentially also be supplied by the FSRU in Mombasa, and Kenya could serve as an LNG hub for neighbouring countries, such as Tanzania, Seychelles, Mauritius, and Uganda.

Photos and illustrations

Port of Mombasa. Photo: Ulrika Roupé.

Power plant in Mombasa, Kipevu II. Photo: Johan Algell.