Jamaica signs pact with British oil company for offshore oil and gas exploration

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.

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.