Kenya moves to ease trade dispute with Tanzania

Wednesday July 12 2017

A Kenyan ferries an assortment of cooking gas cylinders to customers in Ol Kalou Town in Nyandarua County, February 21, 2016. FILE PHOTO | NMG


Kenya has announced plans to buy new equipment for testing cooking gas entering the local market by road at border points in a move that could end the raging trade dispute with Tanzania.

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Tuesday said it was procuring two test machines — gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (GCMS) — for the inspections.

This came after Ministry of Energy officials in May banned gas imports from Tanzania through land border due to failure to meet safety standards that exposed Kenyan consumers to the risk of cylinder explosions.

“Purchase of an additional two GCSM machines is necessary in order to ensure that all LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) entering the country through the road border points is sampled and tested,” ERC acting director-general Pavel Oimeke told the Business Daily.

The ERC puts the cost of one machine at between $100,000 (Ksh10.3 million) and $400,000 (Kshh41.2 million).

READ: Tanzania protests Kenya's move to block gas imports


One functional machine

The government currently has only one functional similar machine at the Kenya Petroleum Refineries Limited, which is used to test and certify all cooking gas imports through the Mombasa port.

Kenya has for the last two months blocked more than 4,000 metric tonnes of cooking gas from entering the local market, including through the border town of Namanga.

The ban has effectively made Mombasa the only entry route for LPG.

READ: TZ tycoon single biggest loser in Dar-Nairobi gas spat

The investigation into Tanzania gas imports revealed that some cylinders lacked the chemical additive ethyl mercaptan (rotten egg odour) that enables gas detection and appropriate response by users.

The inquiry also revealed that Tanzania importers supply gas with dangerously higher propane content, since it’s cheaper, exposing homes to cylinder explosions.

READ: Magufuli, Uhuru step in to end escalating trade war

Lower prices

This partly explains the lower prices for Tanzania gas imports.

The propane: butane ratio for Tanzania gas cylinders stood at 40:60, the study indicated, contrary to Kenya’s quality specifications of a propane:butane mix of 10:90.

“Kenya appliances are manufactured to meet the butane-rich ratio.

"An increase of propane in the mix can result in increased pressure and a possible explosion and loss of life and property,” a statement from Energy ministry says.