Oil and Gas

The history of Oil and Gas in Kenya as well as information on the relevant blocks.

This is a description of the of the Oil and Gas sector in Kenya i.e the History of the Oil and Gas Sector in Kenya from 1950 (pre-independence) to 2014. Further information on Oil and Gas Blocks (contracted, under exploration and open) is contained here.

History of Oil and Gas in Kenya

1950 - 1960

  • Petroleum Exploration in Kenya begun in the 1950's with the first well being drilled in 1960.
  • 1954: British Petroleum (BP) and Shell began exploring in the Lamu Embayment where they drilled ten wells.
  • None of the wells were fully evaluated or completed for production despite several indications of oil staining and untested zones with gas shows.
  • In Mandera Basin, Frobisher Ltd., Adobe Oil Company and Burmah Oil Company conducted photo geological field geology, gravity, aeromagnetic and seismic surveys that did not materialize into drilling programs.


  • The Kenya Petroleum Refinery Limited was originally set up by Shell and the British Petroleum Company BP in 1959 to serve the East African region in the supply of a wide variety of oil products. KPRL refines imported crude oil in Changamwe, Mombasa.


  • Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) is a State Corporation established on 6th September 1973 under the Companies Act (CAP 486) of the Laws of Kenya and started commercial operations in 1978. The Company transports petroleum products from Mombasa to the hinterland.


  • Several consortia acquired acreage in upper part of Lamu Basin.
  • Texas Pacific et al drilled Hargaso-1 in 1975 and encountered oil and gas shows in the Cretaceous rocks.


  • Chevron and Esso drilled Anza-1 and Bahati-1 wells in the southern part of Anza Basin. The drilling mud of both tests was suspected of having hydrocarbons and microfossils that contaminated the geochemical and cuttings respectively.


  • An interest in the offshore portion of the Lamu Basin resulted in the drilling of three deep wells, Simba-1, Maridadi-1 and Kofia-1 by a consortium of Cities Services, Marathon and Union.
  • Seismic data revealed that salt diapiric structures were present along the Kenyan margin.


  • A group of companies led by Amoco and Total drilled ten (10) wells, 8 of them in Anza Basin and 2 in Mandera Basin.
  • The wells were dry but with indications of oil and gas.
  • Total exploration drilled Ndovu-1, Duma-1 and Kaisut-1 in North Anza Basin while Amoco drilled Sirius-1, Bellatrix-1 and Chalbi-3 in the Northwest of Anza Basin and Hothori-1 well in South Anza Basin.


  • The Government of Kenya entered into a joint venture exploration programme with Petro-Canada International Assistance Corporation.
  • Seismic work was conducted and Kencan-1 was drilled to test deeper strata on the structure adjacent to Garissa-1 well.


  • National Oil initiated an in-house study of the Lamu Basin as part of a long-term strategy to re- evaluate the existing geological, geophysical and geochemical data relating to each of the sedimentary basins in Kenya.
  • Based on the above reports Kenya subdivided the Lamu embayment (both onshore and offshore) into ten (10) exploration blocks, each with a specific exploration play. Two (2) more exploration blocks have been created since the year 2001.

August 2000- March 2001

  • NOCK commissioned the Tertiary Rift Study. The study led to quantification of potential source and reservoir rock units in the study area as well as the petroleum system at play in the sub-basins.


  • The ERC is established under the Energy Act, 2006. Following the operationalization of the Energy Act, 2006, with effect from July 7 2007, the Electricity Regulatory Board (ERB) became Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). The ERC regulates the downstream sector as it regulates the petroleum pump prices.


  • Tullow Oil, in partnership with Africa Oil and Marathon Oil began drilling in Turkana (in the Tertiary Rift Basin), and announced a discovery of an estimated 300 million barrels of oil. In 2014, Tullow announced that it had now identified 600 million barrels of oil.


  • The Ministry of Energy and Petroleum's was formed under the Executive Order No. 2/2013 of May 2013 on the Organisation of the Government of the Republic of Kenya are:
  • MOEP is in charge of formulating and implementing policies so as to create an enabling environment for efficient operation and growth of the sector. It sets the strategic direction for the growth of the sector and provides a long-term vision for all sector players.


The Petroleum Institute of East Africa (PIEA) is the professional body for the oil and gas industry in the East Africa region. The mission of the PIEA is to provide a forum for expertise and excellence in the oil industry, promote professionalism and free enterprise in the petroleum business supported by the highest operations and business standards. As of 2014 PIEA was certified to offer training though its School of Petroleum Studies.

Oil and Gas Blocks

Below is a map of the existing Oil and Gas Blocks with information as to their location, whether or not they have been awarded and their operational status:

Map illustrating Oil and Gas Contracted Blocks in East Africa

As illustrated most of the oil basins in the East of Kenya lie within the Central African Rift Block, which covers The Central African Republic, Sudan (Khartoum) and South Sudan (Juba). On this particular formation lie operational Oil blocks, In Sudan and South Sudan, all the Oil Blocks in Kenya (onshore and offshore) are currently under exploration.

Maps showing undsicovered Oil and Gas blocks in East Africa:

Map illustrating undiscovered Oil and Gas blocks

Map illustrating undiscovered Oil and Gas blocks in East Africa

Oil and Gas Basins i.e. Location of Oil and Gas operations, operators, joint partners, duration of contracts and area size. 

Basin Operator Companies Involved Duration Area in Sq Km

Mandera/Lugh Basin

Simba Energy Inc.

Essel Group Middle East; Simba

Awarded August 3 2011


Mandera/Lugh Basin (Gas)

Lion Petroleum Corp


September 17, 2008 to November 30, 2017


Gregory Rift Basin

Tullow Kenya BV

Delonex Energy Ltd, Africa Oil Kenya BV and Tullow, Delonex, Africa Oil

Ends September 1, 2018


Kenya Dome

Tullow Kenya BV

Africa Oil Kenya BV, Maersk Oil & Gas A/S, IOC Tullow, Africa Oil, Maersk

Ends September 30, 2017


Kenya Dome

Tullow Kenya BV

Africa Oil Kenya BV, Maersk Oil & Gas A/S, IOC Tullow, Africa Oil, Maersk

Ends June 30, 2017


Turkana Basin

Tullow Kenya BV

Africa Oil Kenya BV, Maersk Oil & Gas A/S, IOC Tullow

Ends April 1, 2018


Kenya Dome/Turkana Basin

Tullow Kenya BV

Africa Oil Kenya BV, Maersk Oil & Gas A/S, IOC Tullow

Awarded September 30, 2013


Lotikipi Basin

Compania Espanola de Petroleos SA (CEPSA)

ERHC Energy Kenya Ltd, National Oil Corp of Kenya, Circle Oil & Gas Ltd, IOC CEPSA, ERHC, NOCK, Circle Oil & Gas

June 28, 2012 to August 31, 2018


Ethipian Plateau

Africa Oil Kenya BV

Delonex Energy Ltd, Africa Oil

December 31, 2010 to June 30, 2017


Mandera/Lugh Basin

East African Exploration (Kenya) Ltd

Lion Petroleum Corp, IOC Afren, Taipan

Awarded November 19, 2007


Lotikipi Basin/Ethiopian Plateau

Adamantine Energy Kenya Ltd O&G

Bowleven (Kenya) Ltd, First Oil and Gas Ltd, IOC Adamantine, Zennor

Awarded August 30, 2012


Our database is continuously updated

if you are aware of publicly available information that is not included, we would be grateful to be notified at info@extractives-baraza.com

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