By Njiraini Muchira
Kenya has yet again been forced to postpone the commissioning of the $470 million Mombasa-Nairobi pipeline after the contractor failed to complete critical works in time.
Although Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) had said the project would be commissioned in December 2017, the contractor, Zakhem International Construction, said it had been forced to import new materials due to incompatibility.
The commissioning of the project has now been pushed to end of March, the fifth time the launch of the pipeline has been pushed back.
Andrew Kamau, Petroleum Principal Secretary told The EastAfrican that the pipeline will be commissioned on March 31.
With this decision, KPC wants to avoid a repeat of the 2009 fiasco when former President Mwai Kibaki was made to commission the Line 1 Pipeline Capacity Enhancement project before it was fully completed.
The pipeline then failed to hit the anticipated oil transportation targets despite the government investing $76.4 million to increase its capacity.
According to Jason Nyantino, KPC corporate communications manager, the company is determined to have the project ready by end of March.
"Discrepancies of materials often occur in huge projects but these are issues that are easily sorted out by the contractor," he told The EastAfrican.
The completion of the Line 5 pipeline is meant to address perennial oil transportation challenges that contribute to high costs of fuel.
Line 5 will have the capacity to pump 1 million litres of oil per hour from Mombasa to Nairobi.
The new pipeline will operate concurrently with the existing 40-year-old Line 1 to transport petroleum products not only in Kenya but also in the East African region and to meet demand for the next 30 years.
It is expected to improve the reliability of fuel supply to export markets of Uganda, Rwanda and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo which in 2010 stood at 2.4 billion litres but has since risen to 3.5 billion litres in 2016 and is projected to hit seven billion litres by 2020.
According to KPC, regional demand for refined petroleum has increased to 13 per cent of Kenya's total exports making it the country's third largest export product after tea and cut flowers.