Africa Oil fails to strike crude at Marsabit


A map showing the location of block 9 and a photo of an oil rig. Africa Oil has abandoned its Bahasi well on block 9 and moved the rig to the Sala location on the northeast flank of the block. Photo/FILE

Canadian explorer Africa Oil has been forced to abandon drilling at one of its wells in Marsabit County after failing to strike oil, its first setback after a series of discoveries in Turkana.

The Toronto Stock Exchange-listed firm said Monday that it was closing the Bahasi well, located in Block 9, which did not yield any oil or gas find after being drilled to a depth of 2,900 metres.

“While we are disappointed that the Bahasi and Tutule wells did not find commercial hydrocarbons, we look forward to aggressively pursuing other exploration opportunities in other sub-basins within these two large blocks,” said Keith Hill, chief executive of Africa Oil.

This comes weeks after the firm, with partner Tullow, made their fifth consecutive wildcat discovery at Agete in Turkana County.

Mr Hill said the well ‘‘is being plugged and abandoned’’ and that the company would carry out further tests and analysis at its Ethiopian well ‘‘to determine the future exploration programme direction in the North Turkana Basin.’’

“South Lokichar Basin continues to be our main focus, but we are still confident we will unlock other productive basins on this trend,” said Mr Hill in a statement.

Africa Oil said tests at both Twiga South-1 and Ngamia-1 on Blocks 13T and 10BB confirmed commercial viability of over 5,000 barrels of oil per day, doubling the company’s previous estimates.

The Vancouver-based firm announced that it will move to drill a fresh exploration well at Sala, northeast of Block 9.

Kenya has recently become a hotbed of exploration, with neighbouring Tanzania and Uganda also striking commercially viable quantities of hydrocarbons.

A total of 44 out of Kenya’s 46 oil exploration blocks have been licensed to explorers.

Smaller players such as Cove, Origin Oil, Pancontinental and Lion Energy, who had dominated Kenya’s prospecting scene for years, have been quietly exiting in recognition of the change in the balance of power in favour of big players like France’s Total and US majors Anadarko and Apache.

Analysts said Tullow and Africa Oil’s exploration successes in northern Kenya had raised the country’s profile as a viable frontier market investment destination.