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South and East Africa


ETHIOPIA: SEDIMENTARY BASINS (source: Purcell Geological Consultants)


Ethiopia has a number of sedimentary basins with potential for oil and gas discoveries. Oil seeps have been reported in several areas with shows in exploration wells drilled in the Ogaden basin in the southeast.

East African Rift (Rift Valley/Chew Bahir/Omo) -

Ogaden Basin -


Other Areas -

In development


In 1860 an oil seep was reported in Ethiopia although exploration did not begin until the 1920s when seeps were mapped on the Red Sea coast, in the Ogaden basin, in the Gara Mulatta mountains near Harrar, in the Fafan and Gerger river valleys, and near Jijiga.

The first exploration license in the Harrarge province was granted in 1915 and transferred to Anglo-American, a subsidiary of Standard Oil company, incorporated into Esso. In 1920 the so-called Dudley Expedition was carried out, to conduct geological surveys in northern Harrarge between Harrar and Jijiga and the Afar depression. Two drilling sites were noted but were not drilled.

During the next decade, exploration focused on the Red Sea coast until 1936 when, during the Italian occupation, geological mapping of the Ogaden Basin began by Agip. After the Second World War Sinclair Petroleum was granted an oil exploration license covering all Ethiopia and regional geological analysis again focused activity on the Ogaden region. Shallow holes were drilled but Sinclair relinquished the concession in 1956.

In 1959 Gewerkschaft Elwerath of Germany signed a concession agreement covering the eastern Ogaden and seismic and gravity surveys commenced in 1960 in the lower Wabishebelle area. The first deep exploration well, Abred-1, was then drilled in 1963 which was abandoned as a dry hole.

In 1969 Tenneco obtained a license drilling its first well, El Kuran-1, in 1972 which had numerous oil shows. The company drilled a number of further wells including Calub-1 which discovered gas and Magan-1 and Hilala-1 to the west of Calub-1 which produced gas and non-commercial oil. Tenneco relinquished the concession in 1975 after the Ethiopian revolution when the military expelled all western companies.

Subsequently the Soviet Petroleum Exploration Expedition (SPEE) conducted a number of surveys and drilled several appraisal wells delineating the Calub and Hilala gas fields.

In the early 1990s Hunt and Maxus Energy conducted geological surveys but it was not until 2005 when Petronas acquired 3 blocks in the Ogaden basin (Genale, Kallafo and Welwel-Warder) after completing a 2-year exclusive study agreement with the Ethiopian Ministry of Mines and Energy. It also won a tender to develop the Calub and Hillala gas fields but abandoned other blocks in the west after drilling.

In development

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