Turkish oil firm Genel to explore in Somalia from 2013

Tue Oct 30, 2012 10:16am EDT

* Plans to drill 2 wells in Somaliland by 2015

* Company is moving forward despite political disputes

* Genel will spend $400 mln to drill 5 wells in Africa

By Kelly Gilblom

NAIROBI, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Turkish oil and gas company Genel Energy Plc plans to conduct seismic work in northwestern Somalia early next year and drill its first well in the second quarter of 2014 and another well in 2015, company officials said.

The London-listed explorer said in August it had the rights to two blocks, Block 13 and Block 10B, in the country's semi-autonomous Somaliland region.

The area shares the same geological structure with oil producer Yemen and could have 1 billion barrels of oil, the company said. It plans to spend about $400 million drilling five wells in Africa overall over the next three years.

"Somaliland provides an exciting geological opportunity, and we look forward to starting work in the region," said company spokesperson Andrew Benbow, in an email to Reuters on Tuesday.

East Africa has recently become a major hub of oil and gas exploration activity, but Somalia has largely missed out due to violent conflicts that have made the Horn of Africa country unstable.

In September, Somalia elected a new federal government, its first permanent government since 1991.

Somali technocrats have said they now must sort out a tangle of overlapping oil and gas exploration licences issued over the past few decades by the former federal government and the semi-autonomous regions of Puntland and Somaliland.

Genel Energy declined to comment about the political situation in Somalia but said it planned to move forward with exploration, despite speculation the new federal government might upend agreements made after 1991.

The Somaliland licences are Genel's only exploration acreage in the region, although it has a number of contracts in west and north Africa. (Editing by George Obulutsa and Jane Baird)

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