Kenya has marked out eight new offshore oil blocks to be opened up for leasing by exploration firms, senior energy ministry officials said on Friday.
Exploration interest in Kenya and its neighbours in eastern Africa has increased after oil deposits were found in Uganda and natural gas in Tanzania and Mozambique.
At least five oil companies are already jostling for the new blocks, which the east African nation had initially expected to list in the Kenya Gazette by the end of February, but delays arose due to errors while surveying the blocks.
Their listing in the weekly government publication makes it legal for them to be leased out for exploration.
France’s Total, Norway’s Statoil, Brazil’s Petrobras, New York-listed Apache Corporation and UK’s Tullow Oil Plc had expressed interest in the blocks, a government official said.
“The companies specified they wanted deepwater offshore blocks,” Alfred Odawa, a consultant geologist at the energy ministry, told Reuters.
The blocks will be to the east of existing ones off the coast of Kenya, and will bring the total number of exploration blocks in the country to 46.
The blocks will have areas of between 10,000 square km and 15,000 square km and between 2,600 and 4,000 metres deep.
Explorers are already active on other blocks, collecting and analysing 2D and 3D seismic data and drilling exploratory wells.
“The survey kept making mistakes. We corrected them … it’s not a small exercise. Now, they are ready,” Martin Heya, the commissioner of petroleum at the energy ministry, told Reuters.
“The blocks have been taken to the printer.”
Heya said Total had signed a preliminary agreement for the rights to one of the blocks.
Earlier this week, British oil firm Afren started the acquisition of 1,800 km of 2D seismic data in Block 1, in north-eastern Kenya.
Canadian oil and gas firm Africa Oil Corp is drilling in block 10BB in the Lokichar Basin.
Kenya itself is yet to strike any oil or gas despite sinking at least 32 exploratory oils since independence in 1963.