London-listed Genel Energy has struck oil in Morocco’s offshore Sidi Moussa block in what could be the country’s first commercial oil discovery after more than 100 years of exploration and more than 300 exploratory wells.

The company “encountered oil during drilling operations”, according to a statement on 20 October.

The well, named Sidi Moussa-1, has reached a total depth of 2,825 metres and preparations are under way to perform cased hole testing.

Genel Energy has a 60 per cent stake in the block, while Irish oil and gas exploration company San Leon holds a 10 per cent net working interest.

UK-based Serica Energy also has a stake in the block.

Speaking about the well results, San Leon executive chairman Oisin Fanning emphasised that exploration is still too early to tell whether there are commercial quantities of recoverable oil.

“Testing the SM-1 well aims to evaluate the structure and its hydrocarbons potential as much as possible at this stage of early exploration, and we look forward to updating the market with the results once these are available,” he said.

In September, San Leon announced it had bought UK-based Petromaroc’s 1.5 per cent net working interest in the offshore Sidi Moussa licence, as well as a 22.5 per cent net working interest in the Tarfaya onshore licence, also in South Morocco.

Genel Energy and its partners are one of several oil companies using new technology to try and make a major discovery in Morocco.

US exploration company Kosmos Energy is planning to drill offshore wells in the disputed waters of Western Sahara in November.

The area is claimed by both the government of Morocco and the Algeria-backed indigenous Saharawi group, the Polisario Front.

Due to the disputed nature of the territory, the most recent well drilling off the shores of Western Sahara occurred in the mid-1970s and its waters hold the last unexplored cretaceous basin in the Atlantic Ocean.