* Kenya discovered oil deposits onshore in March
* E. Africa attracting oil and gas explorers
NAIROBI Aug 10 U.S. explorer Apache Corp.
plans to drill an offshore well off the Kenyan coast
soon, company executives said, expanding the search for oil in
the east African country that struck oil onshore in March.
East Africa and the Horn of the continent have become hot
spots for oil and gas exploration in recent years, spurred by
new finds in countries including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and
However, oil companies have yet to make finds offshore.
Apache will drill in an area known as the Mbawa prospect on
Block L8 in the Indian Ocean.
"Spudding is imminent," Barry Rushworth, CEO of
Pancontinental Oil and Gas, one of Apache's partners
with a stake in the block, said in an email to Reuters.
Apache, the operator in the block, is partnered by British
firm Tullow Oil, which made Kenya's onshore discovery
this March, and Australian firms Origin Energy and
Tullow has placed the odds of the well's success at 15
percent, while Pancontinental has estimated the well could
contain as much as 4.9 billion barrels of oil.
In 2007, Australia's Woodside Petroleum drilled
Kenya's last offshore well at a cost of nearly $100 million, but
found no oil deposits and paid the government to exit from a
contract that had required the firm to drill a second well.
Apache said in July it had taken special precaution to
ensure the operation goes smoothly. It has enlisted the Kenyan
Navy to protect the drillship from pirates who have been
hijacking ships in the Indian Ocean for ransom.
The well is expected to take 60 days to complete and reach
3,250 metres below the sea in water depth of 860 metres.
"The main concern that we have with regard to security is
the potential for piracy, and with that regard, we have
partnered with the navy," said Tim Gilblom, managing director of