LONDON (Reuters) - Oil major BP (LSE:BP.) has struck a deal with U.S.-based Kosmos Energy (NYS:KOS) for a share in the exploration of three blocks off the coast of Morocco.
Modern technology has helped firms to discover huge new oil and gas fields over the last decade in regions that were formerly overlooked, not least Africa's Atlantic coast.
Kosmos Energy, which specialises in exploration and production in frontier and emerging areas, said BP had acquired a non-operating interest in the Essaouira, Assaka and Tarhazoute blocks in Morocco's Agadir Basin.
Drilling will start in the first half of 2014, Kosmos Chief Executive Brian Maxted said in a statement.
Under the agreement, BP will fund Kosmos's share of the cost of one exploration well in each of the three blocks and pay a disproportionate share of the cost in the event that a second well is drilled in any block.
BP declined to put a value on its investment.
"It is over 25,000 sq km of new area for us," said spokesman Robert Wine. "It fits with our exploration strategy of looking for significant opportunities in new basins."
Morocco has attracted a growing number of companies in recent years, including the second largest U.S. oil company Chevron (CVX.N), with the promise of a link to the energy-rich geological formations of west Africa.
The announcement sent the shares of Fastnet Oil & Gas (FASTF.L), a junior partner in the Assaka block, up around 14 percent by 1240 GMT. BP shares rose about 1.3 percent.
The agreement remains subject to Moroccan government approval, Kosmos said. The U.S.-listed independent will keep about a 30 percent share in each of the three blocks. BP will have a 45 percent share in two of the blocks and a 26.3 percent share in Assaka once the deal is closed.
(The story fixes quote to show area is in km)
(Reporting by Sarah Young and Lin Noueihed in London; Editing by Kevin Liffey)