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Kenya strikes oil in remote northern region

27 march 2012, 16:37
Kenya struck oil in its remote northwestern Turkana region after exploratory drilling by Anglo-Irish firm Tullow Oil, but has yet to establish commercial viability, AFP reports citing President Mwai Kibaki.

"Our country has made a major breakthrough in oil exploration," Kibaki said, speaking at a conference in Nairobi.

"This is the first time Kenya has made such a discovery and it's a very good news for our country, " Kibaki said. "To establish commercial viability they have to drill multiple wells."

Tullow Oil said in a statement that it had found more than 20 metres of "net oil pay" -- industry jargon measuring its economic viability.

"This oil has similar properties to the light waxy crude discovered in Uganda," said the company, which also struck oil in the neighbouring country.

The find is the first well in Kenya to be tested by the firm, which is exploring oil in several zones in Kenya and Ethiopia. It said it will drill the well further to explore its potential.

"It is... the beginning of a long journey to make our country an oil producer, which typically takes in excess of three years. We shall be giving the nation more information as the oil exploration process continues," Kibaki said.

Tullow Oil said the find had exceeded their expectations. In 2010, prospecting by China's National Offshore Oil Corporation in northeastern Kenyan yielded no commercially viable finds.

"This is an excellent start to our major exploration campaign in the East African rift basins of Kenya and Ethiopia," said Tullow's exploration director Angus McCoss.

"To make a good oil discovery in our first well is beyond our expectations and bodes well for the material programme ahead of us," he added.

The discovery comes weeks after Kenya launched a massive project to build a new port in the coastal town of Lamu and a transport corridor linking oil-rich South Sudan and Ethiopia.

Landlocked South Sudan and Kenya have signed a memorandum of understanding to build a pipeline to export Juba's crude through Lamu following a bitter oil dispute between South Sudan and its former civil war foe Sudan.

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