Kenya has discovered commercial quantities of oil after decades of exploratory drilling in the vast Rift Valley region, putting the East African nation on course to overtake its neighbour, Uganda, which discovered oil three years ago.
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, who revealed the oil discovery during a ceremony to award best performing state agencies, said the Energy Minister, Kiraitu Murungi, had confirmed the discovery of oil in Turkana in the country’s north, near South Sudan.
British oil exploration firm, Tullow Oil, which acquired the oil blocks in the region, hit oil rocks in the region and said they held larger quantities compared to those discovered in Uganda three years ago.
“Our country has made a major breakthrough in our oil exploration,” Kibaki said during the release of 2010/2011 Performance Evaluation results for public agencies.
President Kibaki said the British firm discovered oil rocks with depths of over 20 metres. “This is the first time our country has made such an oil discovery,” he said.
According to the Energy Minister, the latest oil discoveries followed years of exploratory drilling, totaling some 31 oil wells, which all turned out dry, meaning no oil was discovered.
“We have lost a lot of money,” Murungi said.
“We discovered oil in Turkana. We have prospected for oil for years. Tullow Oil, which discovered oil in Uganda, is the first company to discover oil in Kenya,” Murungi said.
Murungi said the government requested the British firm, also involved in oil exploration in Ethiopia, to conduct fresh oil exploration in the region in 2011 after the successes in Uganda.
“We asked them into Kenya in 2011 after the oil discovery in Uganda. They discovered rock structure in Rift Valley. The oil in Ngamia well is bigger than the ones in Uganda. We are happy to receive commercial quantities in Kenya,” Murungi said.
The minister said to determine the extent of commercial oil quantities available an exploratory well has to be drilled in the area.
“Even if they have discovered it, we will drill further to determine the extent of the oil and to discover how many barrels. We are proud that we have commercial quantities,” Murungi said.
To celebrate the latest oil discovery, the Energy Ministry was ranked the second best performing government ministry after that of Planning Ministry.
Kenya, the largest oil consumer in the Great Lakes region, uses 500,000 barrels of oil every month, the combined total requirement for most of the countries in the region.