NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenya's president announced Monday that oil has been discovered in his East African nation for the first time, and a foreign oil firm said the find is similar to the light, waxy crude previously discovered in neighboring Uganda.
President Mwai Kibaki cautioned that commercial viability of the oil find in the northwest Turkana region is still uncertain, but he welcomed the news. The discovery was made over the weekend.
"This is the first time Kenya has made such a discovery and it is very good news for our country," Kibaki said. "It is however the beginning of a long journey to make our country an oil producer, which typically takes in excess of three years."
Tullow Oil -- which is carrying out oil exploration in the region -- said that 20 meters (about 65 feet) of net oil pay was discovered at a site called Ngamia-1 in Kenya's Turkana County.
Tullow's exploration director, Angus McCoss, called the discovery an "excellent start" to Tullow's exploration campaign in the rift basins of Kenya and Ethiopia.
"To make a good oil discovery in our first well is beyond our expectations and bodes well for the material program ahead of us," McCoss said in a statement, adding that the firm is working with Kenya's government and plans on further seismic and drilling activities.
Tullow said many other prospective sites similar to Ngamia have been identified "and following this discovery the outlook for further success has been significantly improved."
Tullow said the Ngamia well was drilled to 1,041 meters (3,415 feet) and would now be drilled to about 2,700 meters (8,858 feet). Moveable oil with an API greater than 30 degrees was found, Tullow said.
Tullow has a 50 percent interest in multiple sites in Kenya and Ethiopia's Rift Valley basins covering more than 100,000 square kilometers (38,610 square miles). Tullow is partnered with Africa Oil at the site of last weekend's discovery.
The oil find was near the border with Uganda and South Sudan. Both of those countries have oil industries.