North Sea oil companies Cairn Energy and Tullow Oil are both planning to tap low-cost African oil fields this year to take full advantage of the rising price of crude oil, according to a report in The Telegraph's Business reporters in the UK.

It reported that Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy told investors that it would start a third round of exploration drilling in Senegal later this month to test the limits of its licence in west Africa, which has so far delivered six successful wells and could contain as much as 27 billion barrels of oil.

The update pushed its share price 3pc higher to 248.40p.

Meanwhile, shares in Africa-focused explorer Tullow Oil bounced 1.5pc higher in early trade after it announced a new oil discovery in the north of its South Lokichar basin in Kenya. The shares later settled back at their previous close of 313p.

Tullow’s drilling victory marks a turnaround in fortunes after it was left empty handed from a previous attempt to test the outer limits of the field in 2014, said the Telegraph report. Angus McCoss, exploration director at Tullow, said the roughly 100-ft column proved that oil had migrated into the area and further drilling would now go ahead.

A two-year downturn in oil prices pushed companies to begin exploring in lower cost oil fields, which became even cheaper to investigate as service companies slashed their own costs.

Oil prices are now expected to rise from around $55 a barrel to between $60-$65 by the end of the year, if a global agreement to limit supply struck at the end of last year holds firm.

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