Oil and water don’t just mix, yet water is the the main ingredient in the extraction of oil. Let’s get into it

Turkana is known to be among the most dry regions in Kenya. It has had several periods of drought, including the fact that River Tukwell, Turkana’s only permanent river is drying up. This came as a blow to residents as the river was their main source of water for both domestic, livestock and for irrigation activities.

That said, Lake Turkana is also at the risk of drying up according to UNESCO. The lake has been listed among the endangered world heritage sites, especially if Ethiopia is to go ahead with plans to construct more dams. Where does this leave Turkana?

In the oil industry, water flooding or water injection is the process where water is injected into an oil field, to increase pressure and thereby stimulate oil production. Water is injected to support pressure of the reservoir, to displace oil and push it towards a well.

Water has emerged to be a precious yet a rare commodity in this region. It is in this same proximity that Tullow’s oil extraction activities are ongoing. Tullow has also provided 30 boreholes that serve up to 20,000 people and 50,000 livestock as part of their CSR.

According to Anthony Mwangi, the GPA & Communications director at Tullow, Tullow needs to pump water in the wells in order to get oil out. This is done in the ratio of 1:1 i.e. water to oil. They are currently getting 60 to 80 thousand barrels of oil in a day, and it can be further projected to 100 thousand barrels when the oil production systems are fully functional in the various oil blocks, he noted.

If the ratio of water to oil extracted is 1: 1, it means up to 10million litres and more of water is being used per day in the oil-drilling process. 10million litres of water?  That means that the same amount can supply the daily water needs of the whole Turkana County to more than a half of its demand. Remember Turkana has been listed among dry regions in Kenya for decades. The big question is where does this much water in a dry spelled region coming from?

Over the years not even the national government was able to supply Turkana with such amounts of water, not to forget the additional 30 boreholes which also provide water to the residents. Is the ministry of water and irrigation involved by the ministry of petroleum and mining in their oil extraction processes? Because if the ratio is one to go by, it means two entire ministries should be involved.

Is the water taxed by the national government? How much can 10million litres of water do in agriculture? Talk of irrigation and livestock.

Water has been a scarce resource, and maybe the national government should learn from Tullow, how to come up with so much water, in a dry stricken area as this.