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Image courtesy of Tullow Oil plc

“Oilmen believe Ethiopia lies on the same oil-bearing strata as the massive discovery in Kenya by British-based Tullow Oil in early 2012,” UPI said.

But the Ogaden desert region of Ethiopia, the center of interest, saw the slaughter of nine Chinese and 65 Ethiopians who were part of an exploration team in 2007. Since then, drilling activity has been sparse, UPI said.

With Ethiopia’s estimated oil reserves of about 2.7 billion barrels, interest is building.

Tullow Oil plc is now drilling in western Ethiopia, with partner Africa Oil Corp, based in Canada.

Tullow calls itself Africa’s biggest independent oil company.

Following its finds in Uganda’s Lake Albert Rift Basin, Tullow extended its exploration acreage into the prospective East African Rift Basins of Kenya and Ethiopia.

In 2010, Tullow signed an agreement with Africa Oil for a 50% operated interest in the South Omo Block in Ethiopia.

“The combined acreage covers the Turkana Rift Basin which is similar in geology to the Lake Albert Rift Basin and is also a south-east extension of the geologically older Sudan rift basins trend. The first well in the licence commenced in December 2012 at Sabisa-1. This is the most northerly well drilled in our East African acreage to date, and established that the hydrocarbon system in that area is oil prone,” Tullow said.

Tullow said the well showed reservoir-quality sands, oil and heavy gas shows.

“The Horn of Africa country has not produced any oil in commercial quantities since its first oil seep was reported in 1860,” UPI said.

“Exploration in the Ogaden Basin, as well as newer activity in the Omo and Gambella basins, will continue to face challenges due to relatively remote operating environments these areas represent,” Oxford Analytica said. Civil wars across the Horn of Africa have also stunted exploration.

The Omo region, said James Phillips, Africa Oil vice president for business development, “is frankly the end of the Earth. It hasn’t had any attention from oil and gas exploration ever.”

Africa Oil has exploration rights over 35,000 square miles in the Ogaden and Omo regions.

SouthWest Energy, an Ethiopian exploration firm, has rights on 17,600 square miles of the Jijiga Basin on Ethiopia’s eastern border with Somalia.