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Petroleum Exploration in East Africa - a Brief History


The latest round of petroleum exploration in East Africa has seen major oil discoveries onshore Uganda and Kenya and giant gas accumulations offshore Tanzania and Mozambique. East Africa is widely touted as one of the emerging hydrocarbon provinces of the 21st Century. This presentation presents the historical background to this success, looking at past exploration efforts dating back to the 1930s. The East Africa region was considered highly prospective by the world's leading oil companies in the mid 20th Century but lack of success, among other reasons, saw interest fall away in the 1970s, revive in the 1980s and then fall almost to zero. The Uganda oil discoveries put East Africa back on the oilman's map and the region is certainly ‘hot’ again. Outside of Somalia, most of the Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Tertiary basins in the region are under permit, largely by small to medium-sized independents and national oil companies, and with large international companies active in the offshore basins. This presentation presents maps showing the permit activity and drilling results by decade and by country for Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Somaliland and Eritrea, commencing with the 1950s. The changing pattern and level of activity, and the causes of those changes, provide an historical background for the current activity and future success.