NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya has mapped out eight new blocks for onshore and offshore oil and gas exploration, a top Energy Ministry official said on Tuesday, as foreign investors scramble for acreage in east Africa.
Exploration interest in Kenya has surged since the country announced a year ago its first oil strike discovery by British explorer Tullow Oil in the country's north, followed by a second find in the same region.
The discoveries triggered a rush by international oil and gas companies to snap up what remained of Kenya's 46 exploration licenses.
"We have mapped eight blocks and forwarded them to be included in the official Kenya gazette," Permanent Secretary for Energy Patrick Nyoike told Reuters without giving further details on where the blocks would be.
The new licensing round will introduce an auction-style format to licensing blocks in east Africa's biggest economy.
Previously the country operated more on a first-come, first-served basis. But since it has become established as a known area for hydrocarbon deposits, it has aimed to get investors bidding against each other for licences in the hope of obtaining a higher price.
"We will put them up for auction once we have a new government in place," Nyoike said.
Defeated presidential contender Raila Odinga challenged his election loss in court on Saturday, alleging widespread ballot rigging in a fresh test of Kenyan democracy five years after a disputed vote triggered deadly tribal violence.
The Energy ministry said last month it wanted to demarcate some new blocks around the Lokichar Basin, where Tullow made both its oil finds, and the Lamu Basin, where Apache made a gas find.