Britain’s Tullow Oil, Thursday said it had failed to find viable crude deposits at its eighth test on Emong-1 well, Turkana County.
The Emong-1 exploration well in Block 13T “encountered poorly developed oil-bearing reservoir sands,” Tullow said in a statement.
The well was drilled about four kilometres (2.5 miles) to the southeast of the Ngamia-1 discovery.
“The early exploration, appraisal and testing activities onshore Kenya are giving us significant technical and operational insight for further optimising and accelerating the development of the basin,” said Tullow in a statement. However, the company vowed to carry on with oil search operations in the area.
The firm expressed optimism of more discoveries in the expansive Turkana basin.
Kenya had no known commercial reserves of petroleum until March 2012 when Tullow Oil discovered crude in Ngamia-1 well at Lokichar in Turkana County.
By last month, Tullow had drilled seven more wells at Etuko-1, Twiga-1, Ekales-1, Paipai-1, Amosing-1, Agete-1 and Awoi-1. Six of the wells had oil.
The firm, together with its partner Africa Oil, has found enough oil in Kenya to make field development commercially viable. The companies expect to start production and possible sales as soon as 2016, marking the first oil exports from East Africa.
Tullow has since doubled its estimate of discoveries in the Lokichar basin to 600 million barrels. Focus is now turning on the development of infrastructure such as an evacuation pipeline and a refinery.
Kenya has recently become a hotbed of exploration, with neighbouring Tanzania and Uganda also striking commercially viable quantities of hydrocarbons.
Smaller players such as Cove, Origin Oil, Pancontinental and Lion Energy, who had dominated Kenya’s prospecting scene for years, have been quietly exiting in recognition of the change in the balance of power in favour of big players like France’s Total and US majors Anadarko and Apache.
Tullow has operations at five on-shore blocks in Kenya including 10A, 10BA, 10BB, 13T, 12A and 12B and off-shore block L8 where American exploration firm Apache Corporation is searching for oil.
Analysts said Tullow’s exploration successes in northern Kenya have raised the country’s profile as a viable frontier market investment destination.