Somalia’s Puntland Petroleum Minerals Agency (PPMA), recently awarded ION Geophysical a contract to conduct 2D seismic studies off the Somalia coast, reported Offshore Engineer.

While Puntland is officially part of the country of Somalia, the area has long been autonomous of the central government and considers itself independent. The new push to continue exploration is one of the first since civil war broke out in the country in the early ’90’s.

PennEnergy said that the contract given allows for seismic surveys to be conducted over an area covering 8,000 km. This will cover all the area off the Puntland-administered coast, and could allow for licensing of bid rounds in the future.

The project is slated to begin immediately, with the first data sets coming online late this year.

Dr. Issa Farah, director of the PPMA, said: “The creation of the block scheme is an important milestone in the development of oil and gas exploration within the jurisdiction of the autonomous State of Puntland. The PPMA is pleased to announce the availability of these blocks and looks forward to engaging with the industry to discuss their plans for the region.”

ION maintains an active presence in East Africa, with other projects currently underway off the Tanzanian coast.