Jamaica's petroleum firm has signed an agreement with a British oil company, clearing the way for oil and gas exploration in offshore blocks south of the island.
The "production sharing agreement" was signed with London-headquartered Tullow Oil, which has a 100 percent operating interest.
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The pact allows Tullow to start exploring 10 of Jamaica's 31 offshore blocks. The areas to be surveyed cover about 32,065 square kilometers (12,380 square miles).
In a Tuesday statement from the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, Tullow exploration director Angus McCoss said a "great deal of geological and other essential work is required before any drilling can take place."
Exploration work to search for commercially-viable wells of oil and gas could last up to 7 ½ years.