The well was drilled to a depth of 2,553m and reported gas in the shallowest objective.

The company intends to drill the well to a total depth (TD) of 3,275m to target further exploration objectives; a secondary exploration target lies above the planned TD.

Tullow Oil exploration director Angus McCoss said, "A gas discovery on prognosis in the shallowest objective at Mbawa-1 is an encouraging start to our East African Transform Margin exploration campaign."

Pancontinental Oil & Gas CEO and Director Barry Rushworth said the gas discovery proves the presence of a working hydrocarbon system offshore Kenya.

"We thank the Government of Kenya for its cooperation and support in achieving this very positive initial outcome for the country of Kenya, for the L8 joint venture and for Pancontinental," said Rushworth.

"With drilling continuing to a deeper exploration target, these interim results may be the first part of the story in this well, and they are certainly just the beginning of the main story of oil and gas exploration offshore Kenya.

Apache is the operator with 50% stake in the joint venture which includes Origin Energy holding 20%, Pancontinental Oil & Gas 15% and Tullow Kenya owns 15% stake respectively.