The East African Rift System – A View from Space

East Africa image

East Africa, overlooked in terms of its hydrocarbon potential for many years, is increasingly viewed as an exploration hot spot, with recent discoveries in the Albertine Rift and offshore Tanzania leading to a resurgence in interest. Dominated by the East Africa Rift System (EARS), the region has a complex geological history and provides the potential to bring together modern techniques to aid geological understanding and to help efficiently target hydrocarbon exploration.

Hydrocarbon Opportunities

Tertiary fluvio-lacustrine deposits within the rift grabens and older Karoo Supergroup deposits are the main onshore Petroleum Systems. In Somaliland, similarities are also thought to be found with the Petroleum Systems of Southern Yemen.

Similarities exist between the Petroleum Systems in Somaliland and the proven hydrocarbon regions of Yemen, with the Balhaf Graben in Yemen thought to be a continuation of the Berbera Basin in Somaliland. Jurassic shales are the main source rocks in this region and the satellite imagery has identified numerous roll-over anticlines, closely associated with listric fault growth, that are likely to be most significant structural traps.

Astrium has recently completed an ambitious project to interpret the complete EARS, an area of approximately four and a half million square kilometres, at a scale of between 1:100,000 to 1:500,000. The project incorporates a broad range of territories including, from north to south; Eritrea, Djibouti, Somaliland, Eastern Ethiopia, south-east Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, eastern border area of Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, and the border zones of Zambia, Swaziland and South Africa.