Kenyan authorities have accepted a decision by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) to drop four major oil exploratory blocks in the east African nation, saying this would enable the Chinese firm to undertake “more aggressive exploration.”
A senior Kenyan official who did not want to be named said Thursday the government had handed over six major oil blocks to the Chinese firm but it had proved to be more difficult to explore acreage extending over 100,000 square kilometers.
“This would enable them (CNOOC) to focus more on two blocks which they say has more potential. It is very difficult to carry out exploration on such a large acreage. Exploration is a very big thing…they had over 100,000 square kilometers,” the official said.
Energy Ministry Permanent Secretary, Patrick Nyoike, on Wednesday announced that CNOOC had dropped four blocks, covering almost a fifth of the country’s territory.
The blocks cover the drier northern part of Kenya, called the Mandera Basin, where previous exploration activities in the 1970s led to the discovery of bits of crude oil.
Geologists say there is great potential for oil discovery in the region, arguing that the discovery of two bottles in Mandera by a US firm, Hunt Oil, meant there were oil precipitations in Mandera. The other blocks are Block 9, Block 10A and Block 2.
“They (CNOOC) have kept two blocks and returned four. They are now having aggressive work programmes,” the official said, without elaborating.
CNOOC has been interested in finding natural gas in Kenya and will now concentrate on Block 3 in Lamu, where geologists believe potential for natural gas and crude oil are high.
Meanwhile, Kenya will hand over the four freed blocks to South Korean firms which have expressed interest in exploring for potential crude oil in Kenya.
Nyoike was quoted in the local media here Thursday as saying South Korea’s SK Corp and Taiwan’s CPC Corp were among companies negotiating with the government for possible stakes.