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President Kibaki on Monday announced the discovery of oil in Turkana county, located in the country's arid north-western region.
The President said successful drilling of the oil is still years away.
Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi added a sweetener to the "important announcement", explaining that Kenya's oil deposits could be bigger than Uganda's.
"This morning, I have been informed by the Minister for Energy that our country has made a major breakthrough in oil exploration. This weekend, Tullow Oil, which has been prospecting for oil in block 10 BB in Turkana County, discovered oil in Ngamia-1 well, at a depth of between 846 and 1041 metres. They established over 20 metres of what is technically referred to as OIL-PAY. To establish commercial viability of this oil, they have to drill multiple wells," said President Kibaki.
"This is the first time Kenya has made such a discovery and it is very good news for our country. It is however the beginning of a long journey to make our country an oil producer, which typically takes in excess of three years. We shall be giving the nation more information as the oil exploration process continues."
President Kibaki broke the news of the discovery during a ceremony to announce performance of public agencies for the financial year 2010/2011.
Kenya now joins regional neighbours Uganda and Tanzania in the list of potential oil producing countries.
Mr Murungi explained how the discovery of oil by the British firm came after a frustrating search that had eluded many previous explorers.
"The search was Tullow's first exploration in Kenya after they had also discovered oil in Uganda. We invited them last year and they told us the rock structure in Turkana was similar to the one in Uganda. They have told us that oil deposit could be bigger than Uganda's," said Mr Murungi.
Tullow Oil released a press statement stating the oil in Turkana bore similarities with that discovered in Uganda.
"The well, located in the Turkana County of Kenya Block 10BB, was drilled to an intermediate depth of 1,041 metres and has been successfully logged and sampled. Moveable oil with an API greater than 30 degrees has been recovered to surface. This oil has similar properties to the light waxy crude discovered in Uganda.
"The Ngamia structure is the first prospect to be tested as part of a multi-well drilling campaign in Kenya and Ethiopia. Many leads and prospects similar to Ngamia have been identified and following this discovery the outlook for further success has been significantly improved.
"The well will now be drilled to a depth of approximately 2,700 metres to explore for deeper potential. On completion of operations, the Weatherford 804 rig will move to the Tullow Operated Block 10A where the Paipai-1 wildcat will spud in 2H 2012.
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