China's CNOOC Still Consulting on Kenya Block

Source: Reuters 11/4/2010, Location: Africa

China's CNOOC has not yet made a formal application to withdraw from a second Kenya exploration licence, a senior official at the east African country's National Oil Corporation said.

CNOOC drilled a well in Kenya's block 9 in partnership with Canada's Africa Oil and Taiwan's CPC, and was consulting with them before reaching a final decision, said Peter Thuo, exploration and production team leader at Kenya's state-owned oil company.

Last month a Kenyan government official said CNOOC intended pulling out of its two Kenyan licences, although it wanted a 20 percent participation in another five blocks to be operated by UK-listed Tullow Oil.

"They have actually not yet withdrawn from Kenya. They have given back one exploration block, L2 in the Lamu Basin," Thuo told Reuters on the sidelines of an African oil conference.

"So, as far as the other block 9 is concerned, we are still waiting for official communication from the Chinese... What they have said is that they are in discussions with their partners so that the final decision will involve all the partners not just the Chinese themselves," Thuo added.

Tullow is the operator of Africa Oil's five licences in Kenya after a 50 percent farm-in agreement in September, but is facing local opposition to its bid to acquire a 70 percent interest in UK-based Centric Energy's block 10BA.

Alec Robinson, chief executive at oil exploration firm Centric, told Reuters a group of Kenyans had successfully applied to court to halt exploration in six of its blocks after challenging the government's policy in awarding acreage.

However, he felt the litigation, with a likely outcome on Nov 16 at the next court hearing, would not scupper Tullow's farm-in bid, a sentiment echoed by Thuo.

"Obviously it is in our interest as government to get these deals cleared and out of the way so that work is getting done rather than people waiting for approvals," Thuo said.


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