* Investment seen at $230 million
* Apache to drill at least two wells
By Ank Kuipers
PARAMARIBO, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Suriname's state oil company Staatsolie signed a production sharing agreement with Apache Corp of the United States on Thursday to explore and maybe produce crude from an offshore block off the South American country.
Under the 30-year deal, Apache will invest $230 million in the exploration of Block 53, which lies about 130 kms (80 miles) northwest of the capital, Paramaribo. The investment includes carrying out 3D seismic research and drilling at least two wells.
Apache will cover the exploration costs, and will be reimbursed if the production of commercial reserves begins, Staatsolie said in a statement. Staatsolie can take a stake of up to 20 percent in the development stage of the project.
Staatsolie, founded in 1982, produces about 16,000 barrels of oil a day. Apache was one of 22 energy companies that took part in a bidding round that ended this past June.
Global energy companies have shown a growing interest in the potential of South America's northeastern shoulder. A 2011 discovery off the coast of French Guiana was described as "game changer" for the region's oil prospects.
Earlier this year, Chevron announced a deal with oil and gas company Kosmos Energy that gave it a 50 percent working interest in two blocks off Suriname's coast.