By George Obulutsa
NAIROBI (Reuters) - Tullow Oil (LSE:TLW) said on Saturday it had suspended drilling operations on two blocks in northwest Kenya due to security concerns, after local residents held protests demanding for more jobs at the sites.
"Tullow confirms that there have been a number of demonstrations at Tullow operated sites in Northern Kenya today regarding local concerns around employment," Tullow said in a statement.
"We have temporarily suspended our operations across Block 10BB and Block 13T in Turkana East and Turkana South sub-counties. The priority at the moment is to ensure the safety and security of our staff."
Tullow and Africa Oil (CVE:AOI) have struck oil on both blocks and are in the process of determining its commercial viability.
In July, London-listed Tullow, which is already producing oil in Ghana and awaiting government approval to do so in Uganda, estimated resource volumes in the Lokichar basin in Kenya's northwest at 300 million barrels of crude oil.
Tullow would not comment on whether any of its staff had to be evacuated from the drilling sites, located in a remote part of the east African nation.
Tullow Oil holds a 50 percent stake and is the operator at both the 13T and 10BB blocks, with Africa Oil holding the rest.
In addition to Kenya, oil discoveries in Uganda and gas finds offshore Tanzania and Mozambique have drawn explorers to east Africa, now seen as a potentially major new producing region.
Kenyan government officials were not immediately available to comment on the suspension of exploration operations.
(Reporting by George Obulutsa; editing by Mike Collett-White)