Chinese engineers today began drilling one of the deepest exploratory oil holes ever tapped into Mother Earth, near Isiolo in Kenya.

Isiolo is the last major town north of Mt. Kenya before continuing into the Great Northern Frontier. It’s about 25 miles from Samburu National Park.

The China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) has been all over this place for the last year. It paved a 30-mile long road through the desert in six weeks (I’ve been waiting for 20 miles of this for 20 years), two of its workers were deported for trying to smuggle ivory, and at least in Isiolo the Yuan has replaced the Dollar as the main form of bribery.

The 2½ mile deep well will probably strike oil. CNOOC’s geological studies concluded last year that there were enough measurable hydrocarbons at that depth to warrant the $20 million investment in this first deep hole. The company has spent $15 million over the last two years on roads and research.

If it’s successful, another $100 million will be required to begin harvesting the black gold.

Kenya’s Energy Minister, Kiraitu Murungi, is already bubbling.

“In a matter of days, “ he told Kenya’s East African newspaper on Thursday, “we could be celebrating. God willing, I shall be announcing a historical discovery at the end of the month.”

There’s no question it would be a boon to Kenya, greatly needed right now. The country’s extended drought and turbulent politics needs some stabilization, and oil could bring it relatively quickly.

Much of the troubles as a result of the drought have been in this area, including armed conflicts between different tribes. It would be a long time before the black gold found its residue in Kenyan banks, but certainly there would be a fairly quick job creation in the area.

Murungi must be pretty confident. He has just agreed to deliver the keynote address at the 16th Africa Annual Oil Week conference in Cape Town on November 4!