BP has signed a deal with Jordan to explore for natural gas reserves in the small Risha field near the border with Iraq, company and government officials have announced.

Under the deal, the British company will enter partnership with the government-owned National Petroleum Company (NPC) in two phases to boost the field, which now produces about 20 million cubic feet per day.

The oil major will spend $237m on exploration and evaluation of the Risha block, which covers an area of 7,000km², in the first three to four-year phase of the deal, the officials told Reuters.

BP could enter a second phase to invest billions of dollars in the field if large amounts of gas are discovered in the first phase, according to the news report.

Risha was discovered in 1987 but has yet to deliver encouraging exploration results. Jordanian officials now hope intensive drilling could reveal extensive recoverable gas reserves.