Kenya forges ahead

Recent offshore drilling by Apache and Anadarko help gauge the potential of the Lamu basin.

Vision 2030 is Kenya’s development strategy which aims to transform the economy and “create a globally competitive and prosperous nation with a high quality of life by 2030.” The government is committed to continued institutional reforms in the energy sector, and stresses public-private partnership.


The National Oil Corporation of Kenya (NOCK) was incorporated in 1981, and began to oversee exploration activities delegated from the Ministry of Energy, in 1984. The Petroleum (Exploration & Production) Act, Cap 308, (1986) provides legal framework and regulates the negotiation of productionsharing contracts with potential investors. PSCs are also governed by the Environmental Management & Coordination Act (2000; NEMA).

In 2010, NOCK launched a program to digitize all of Kenya’s oil and gas exploration data. In February 2013, CEO Sumayya Hassan-Athmani announced in the company’s “Energized Bulletin” that the project was complete, data would soon be uploaded, and available to the public online.

Exploration history

The first wells drilled in Kenya were onshore, in the Lamu embayment, beginning in 1960.

The earliest offshore exploration activities were 2D seismic data acquisition programs, beginning in 1970. The first three offshore wells were drilled in the Lamu basin. Total drilled the Simba-1 well (Block L-9) in 1978, to 3604m (11,824ft) TD. In 1982, Cities Services drilled the Maridadi-1B well in Block L-6, to 4,198m TD. In 1985, Union drilled the Kofia well in Block L-7, to 3,629m TD.

After an in-house study in 1991, NOCK subdivided the Lamu embayment (both onshore and offshore) into 10 exploration blocks, created 2 more blocks in 2001, and several more in the last decade. Kenya signed seven production-sharing agreements (PSC) in 2000-2002.

In August-October 2003, Woodside Petroleum acquired 7884km of 2D seismic data in the offshore Lamu basin, over Blocks L5, L6, L7, L8, L9, L10, L11, and L12.

In 2006, Woodside drilled the first deepwater well off Kenya, the Pomboo-1, on Block L-5, in water 2193m (7195ft) deep.

NOCK acquired offshore Block 14T in Magadi in November 2010, and in 2012, signed an agreement with Japan national oil company, Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. (JOGMEC) for joint exploration. Full-tensor gravity gradiometry (FTG), 2D seismic, magneto telluric, and time-domain electromagnetic studies began in June 2012.

Recent offshore wells

In 3Q 2012, Apache Corp. drilled its Mbawa South well in Block 8, in water 864m deep. The well encountered 53m net gas pay, making it the first hydrocarbon discovery offshore Kenya. Apache operates the block with 50% interest.

Anadarko has working interests in five blocks off Kenya: L5, L7, L12, L11A, and L11B. It began work offshore in December 2012 with Transocean’s Deepwater Millenium drillship. In April 2013, the company announced that it had completed the Kubwa well in the L-07 Block, which it operates (50% WI) on behalf of partners Total E&P Kenya B.V. (40%) and PTT Exploration & Production Plc (10%). The well had non-commercial oil shows.

“We are very encouraged with our first test of Kenya’s previously unexplored deepwater basin, in which mudlog and well-site evaluation of core data indicates the presence of a working petroleum system with reservoir quality sands,” said Anadarko Sr. Vice President, Worldwide Exploration. “The Kubwa well tested multiple play concepts and provided useful data regarding the prospectivity of our six-million-acre position offshore Kenya. The rig will now mobilize south to drill the Kiboko well.”

Anadarko is drilling the Kiboko prospect on Block L-11B. Anadarko said the Kiboko well is testing both Upper and Lower Cretaceous sands, just above the thick Jurassic carbonate section. So we’re just getting started in Kenya, and we’re pretty excited about what we see.” OE

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