NAIROBI (Reuters) - Tullow Oil (TLW.L) has found more oil in a well it is drilling in Kenya and plans to drill another well in an adjacent block later this year, the Africa-focused British firm said on Monday.
Tullow said in March it had struck oil in the well in northern Kenya, the country's first-ever oil discovery.
Kenya and its neighbors in east Africa, as well as the Horn of the continent, have become a hot spot for oil and gas exploration in recent years, spurred by new finds in countries including Uganda, Tanzania and Mozambique.
While it is yet to strike commercial deposits, the discoveries by Tullow and its partner Africa Oil Corp AOI.V on Block 10BB in Kenya's far northern county of Turkana has increased exploration interest in the east African country.
Tullow said it had encountered a total net oil pay in excess of 100 meters across multiple reservoir zones in the Ngamia-1 well, over a gross oil-bearing interval of 650 meters. The well has so far been drilled to a depth of 1,515 meters.
Tullow had said in March it had encountered in excess of 20 meters of net oil pay after drilling to a depth of 1,041 meters.
"Many leads and prospects similar to Ngamia have been identified and following this discovery the outlook for further success has significantly improved," it said in a statement.
After the announcement, shares in Africa Oil rose 27 percent to trade at 7.38 Canadian dollars as of 1425 GMT. Tullow shares were not trading due to a public holiday in London.
Martin Mbogo, Tullow Kenya country manager, told a news conference the company expected to reach the well's targeted 2,700 meters in the next four to five weeks.
After Ngamia-1, Tullow plans to drill Twiga-1, a wildcat well in the second half of this year in its nearby Block 13T, and said the net pay encountered so far in Ngamia-1 was more than double that in any of its east African exploration wells.
"We now look forward to the drilling and evaluation of the deeper potential of this well and the acceleration of our seismic and drilling campaigns in the region," Angus McCoss, Tullow's exploration director, said in a statement.
Tullow said it also planned to get one more rig to drill in Block 10A, and intends to acquire more 2D seismic data.
Procuring rigs for exploration companies in the region has been difficult due to a global shortage.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga said it was too early to speculate on the potential viability of Ngamia-1 or the basin as a whole.
"Exploration campaigns can last several years and the timeframe from exploration to realizing production revenue in an onshore environment is typically in excess of six years," Odinga told a news conference in Nairobi.
"We therefore remain cautiously optimistic."
($1 = 0.9943 Canadian dollars)
Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by James Macharia and Mark Potter