History of Petroleum Exploration in Kenya

Petroleum Exploration in Kenya dates back to the early 1950s when the first Oil Exploration License (OEL 1) was granted to BP Shell Development Company to operate in the Lamu Embayment. To date, eighty (80) exploration wells have been drilled by various oil exploration companies within the four sedimentary basins, giving a well density of approximately one well for every 6162.75 km2. However, this needs to be increased in order to discover hydrocarbons since some of the world’s known economical reserve pools occupy as little as 50 to 150km2. Despite this, the probability for discovering oil in the country is higher because current data acquisition and interpretation techniques are much more advanced today than before. Emphasis is also being placed on acquiring in-fill data in sparsely mapped areas and zones with known poor data quality.

companies are involved and they occupy thirty five (35) out of sixty three (63) exploration blocks, representing 56%, of the blocks where the same number of Production Sharing Contracts (PSC’s) has been granted.
The involved companies are:-

  1. Afren/EAX – Block 1;
  2. Africa Oil Corporation – Block 9
  3. CEPSA – Block 11A,
  4. Simba Petroleum – Block 2A
  5. Lion Petroleum – Block2B
  6. A-Z Petroleum – Block L1A, L3
  7. Camac Energy – Block L1B
  8. BG Group – Blocks L10A, L10B
  9. Anadarko – Blocks L11A, L11B, L12
  10. Total – Block L22
  11. NOCK (National Oil Corporation (K)) Blocks 14T
  12. Tullow Oil BV – Blocks 10BAA, 10BB,12A,13T, 12B
  13. ENI – Blocks L21, L23, L24
  14. Rift Energy – Blocks L19
  15. Millo – Block L20
  16. Imara Energy – Block L2
  17. Zara Oil & Gas – Blocks L4, L13
  18. Far Energy Block -L6 and,
  19. Lamu Oil & Gas – Block L14.

Update on Well Drilling Results

To date, a total of eighty (80) wells have so far been drilled in the country. Twenty (20) of these wells are located in Lamu Basin; Fifteen (15) in Anza Basin; Four (4) in Mandera while fifteen (30) are in the Tertiary Rift Basin.

Out of the 80 wells drilled, thirty (50) had hydrocarbon shows, with more than seventeen (17) known oil seeps spreading throughout the four basins. This confirms that all the four Kenyan sedimentary basins possess mature hydrocarbon regimes capable of accumulating economical reserves, where subsurface source rocks, reservoirs and traps do occur in the right combination.

Basin No. of Drilled Wells Oil & Gas Oil only Gas only No show Oil Seeps
Anza 15 2 1 1 4 >8
Lamu 20 10 6 6 2
Mandera 4 2 1 1 2 2
Tertiary Rift 15 14 8 6 2 2
Total 56 28 16 14 10 >14


Current Oil Exploration Activities

Current oil exploration activities in Kenya include rig mobilisation by Tullow Oil to commence onshore drilling in Block 10BB, offshore deep 3D-seismic data acquisition by Anadarko in its five blocks, seismic vessel mobilisation activity by BG Group to commence both 2D and 3D seismic data acquisition in blocks L10A and L10B and the planned drilling in Block L8 by Apache Company scheduled to commence later in the year