LONDON, Oct 18 (Reuters) – Oil companies are stepping up exploration in Morocco, attracted by its stability relative to other parts of North Africa and encouraged by advances in geology and technology that indicate its potential for reserves offshore.
Independent explorers have snapped up rights to explore offshore blocks over the past 18 months, and they are now making way for big players seeking acreage in a nation once dismissed as the energy-poor neighbour of OPEC members Algeria and Libya.
Damon Neaves, managing director of Australia's Pura Vida Energy, said 10 exploration wells would be drilled off Morocco in the next 12 to 18 months, compared with only nine since 1990, according to analysts' estimates.
"That represents an investment of $500 million to $1 billion, and that is a big show of confidence from the industry," Neaves told Reuters. "It is still a frontier region and is underexplored compared to other parts of the world."
BP is the latest oil major to enter Morocco, announcing a deal with Kosmos Energy this week to take a share in three offshore blocks. Drilling will begin next year. Britain's Cairn Energy said on Thursday it would shortly begin drilling off the Moroccan coast.
They follow Chevron, the second-largest U.S. oil company, which said in January it had taken up three offshore blocks.
By contrast, some oil firms have recently turned away from Libya due to disappointing finds and supply disruptions and from Algeria, where security concerns have mounted since an attack on a gas plant this year killed 40 workers.
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