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Oil exploration in Somalia commenced around 1920 when Anglo-American conducted a geological expedition to the Horn of Africa. There was limited shallow drilling around oil seeps in the 1930s but the first true exploration well was not drilled until 1956 in former British Somaliland.
Up to 1991, when the Somali civil war began, around 60 onshore wells had been drilled across the country, mostly in the northern basins. In the 1950s Stanvac’s well on the Daga Shebel seep in Somaliland near the Gulf of Aden coast found significant oil shows. In the 1960s gas flows were registered in Sinclair’s Agfoi-1 well near the Indian Ocean coast in southern Somalia. The last well to be drilled in Somalia before the civil war was Conoco’s Nogal-1 well which encountered oil shows in the Nugaal-1 basin in Puntland.
Eight offshore wells were drilled in the Gulf of Aden between 1974 and 1986 but none of these found oil or gas. The Gulf of Aden is also unproductive in Yemen.
There was no exploration activity for 20 years during the war and its aftermath but a flurry of licensing and exploration programs were announced in 2012 in Somaliland and Puntland where the political situation has become more stable. However, no activity is occurring in southern Somalia where security remains a major problem.
As yet, no wells in any of Somalia’s basins have been commercially successful for oil or gas. Although a number of areas have potential, particularly in the north within basins analogous to those in Yemen, the geological and political risks are high. Consequently no production has been allocated to Somalia by Globalshift for the short and medium term.
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South and East Africa