NAIROBI, May 16 (Xinhua) -- Kenya plans to prioritize investment in specialized skills in order to reduce dependence on foreign labor force in the oil sector, a senior government official said Wednesday.
John Munyes, Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining, told an oil forum in Nairobi that Kenya faces key skills deficiencies in most sectors of the oil industry, especially in the area of geology, pipe fitting, welding, drilling as well as in the operation and repair of heavy equipment.
"We need to up skill our workforce in order to ensure that both local and regional populations benefit from the opportunities created by the oil sector. The shortage has in effect, led to a domination of foreign expertise in technical oil exploration and production skills," Munyes said during the inaugural Morendat Institute of Oil and Gas Conference.
The three-day event brought together experts in oil, gas and extractives from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Australia and Canada to exchange knowledge on key opportunities and pitfalls within the sector.
The main aim of the conference is to enable Kenya to formulate interventions to enhance the capacity of its work force and to exploit emerging opportunities within the oil, gas and extractives sector.
Kenya discovered oil in 2012 and has so far confirmed approximately 750 million barrels of oil in the South Lokichar Basin in Northwest Kenya.
Joe Sang, the Managing Director at Kenya Pipeline Corporation (KPC), said that demand for skilled workers in the oil sector is set to increase given that Kenya plans to expand its pipeline network from 1,300 km to 2,700 km, coupled with the expected deployment of pipelines in Uganda, Tanzania and South Sudan.
John Mosonik, the Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining, said that Kenya has already signed a Production Agreement with Tullow oil, the firm that discovered the country's oil deposits which will trigger the commencement of the early oil scheme.
Mosonik said that through the early oil scheme, Kenya intends to move between 2,000 and 4,000 barrels of oil per day from the production fields to the coast for export using trucks and rail.
He noted that the crude oil will be stockpiled at the Changamwe Oil refinery which has been converted into a storage facility by KPC until there are sufficient quantities for export.
Mosonik added that full oil production is anticipated to commence around 2021-2022, while French firm Total SA has already committed to invest in the Lokichar-Lamu pipeline, boosting Kenya's efforts to develop its own oil fields and realize its ambition of joining the league of oil exporters.