(Adds detail on deal and growing interest in West Africa)
DAKAR May 12 Total has signed a deal
to explore for oil and gas offshore Mauritania, the French
company said on Friday, expanding the scope of its search for
new fields in the deep waters off West Africa's Atlantic coast.
Under an agreement with Mauritania's state-run oil company
SMHPM, Total will take a 90 percent operating stake in Block C7,
which covers 7,300 square kilometres, and SMHPM will take the
remaining 10 percent.
The deal comes 10 days after Total announced that it had
taken a 90 percent stake in the deepwater Rufisque Offshore
Profond Block in neighbouring Senegal, as oil majors show an
increasing interest in the largely untapped region.
"This agreement is part of Total's strategy to explore new
deepwater basins in Africa," said Guy Maurice, Senior Vice
President of Africa at Total Exploration and Production.
Companies including British-based Cairn Energy and
Dallas-based Kosmos Energy have reported a string of
successful finds offshore Senegal and Mauritania in recent
years, stoking interest in the region and potentially
transforming Senegal and Mauritania's impoverished economies.
Last week BP and joint venture partner Kosmos
revealed a major gas discovery off Senegal.
"Alongside Guyana, Mauritania and Senegal is the number one
exploration hot spot," said David Thomson, sub-Saharan analyst
for consultancy Wood Mackenzie.
Total has operated in Mauritania for nearly 20 years, it
said, and already holds interests in other licences on and off
(Reporting by Edward McAllister; Editing by Greg Mahlich)