Murphy Oil is exiting the deepwater Ntem Concession offshore West Africa’s Cameroon, handing over its interest to Sterling Energy.

Sterling’s wholly-owned subsidiary Sterling Cameroon Ltd. is also to become operator of the 2,319 sq km concession. The company has signed an agreement with Murphy Cameroon Ntem Oil Co. Ltd for the latter to transfer its 50% interest in, and operatorship of, the concession to Sterling. Murphy farmed into the block in 2011.

No consideration is payable for the transfer of Murphy’s interest, and completion of the transaction remains subject to Cameroon Ministerial approval. Following completion, the concession will be held 100% by Sterling.

The Ntem block is largely under-explored, and features water depths ranging from 400-2,000 m (1,312-6,562 ft) in the prospective southern Douala–Rio Muni Basin. The minimum work obligation for the current phase of the concession was met by completion of the drilling in April last year of the first but disappointing well in the block, Bamboo-1. That probe was drilled in 1,600 m (5,250 ft) of water and found no commercial hydrocarbons, with Murphy picking up the drill bill for the well as part of its original farm-in deal.

Sterling’s executive chairman, Alastair Beardsall, said that following Murphy’s withdrawal, his company “looks forward to working with Société Nationale des Hydrocarbures, the national oil company of Cameroon, to agree a forward plan to progress the exploration of this under-explored block”.

The current phase of the Ntem concession runs only until April this year, with an option to extend the term by a further two years.