Colombian state oil company Ecopetrol announced a partnership with a unit of Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum Corporation to explore three deep-water blocks off the Caribbean coast.

The Anadarko subsidiary will be the operator of the Fuerte Norte, Fuerte Sur and Purple Angel blocks, although each company will hold a 50 percent stake, Ecopetrol said in a statement Thursday.

In 2006, Ecopetrol signed contracts with the National Hydrocarbons Agency, or ANH, to explore and develop the Fuerte Norte and Fuerte Sur blocks. Under the partnership agreement announced Thursday, Anadarko has taken a 50 percent interest in those areas.

On Dec. 7, the ANH awarded Ecopetrol and Anadarko the rights to conduct exploration work in Purple Angel.

The Fuerte Norte block spans 481,000 hectares (1,857 sq. miles), while Fuerte Sur is 330,000 hectares in area and the adjacent Purple Angel measures 220,000 hectares.

Two- and three-dimensional seismic data were acquired in Fuerte Norte and Fuerte Sur, while in Purple Angel the work will include seismic acquisition, piston coring and satellite image studies, the statement said.

Colombia is currently Latin America's fourth-largest oil producer after Venezuela, Mexico and Brazil.

The South American country, which has roughly 2.2 billion barrels of oil reserves, produced 914,000 barrels per day last year and expects to raise that output in the near future to 1 million bpd.

EFE