Oil and gas giant Total has signed five licensing agreements with Oil Search to operate for the first time in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

The deal means both companies will hold equal interests in each of the five licences in the onshore and offshore Gulf of Papua New Guinea region of PNG.

"The completion of this transaction will mark the first entry of Total Exploration and Production into PNG," Oil Search said in a statement on Tuesday.

Sydney-based Oil Search said the focus of the transaction was to explore and develop the prospective offshore gulf and eastern forelands area.

The sale is conditional on approval from the PNG Minister for Petroleum and Energy and other conditions.

The company's shares were 3.7 per cent higher, or 28 cents, to $7.82 at 12.40pm.

Oil Search and Total have also agreed to form a strategic partnership to look at other licences.

Total's senior vice president of exploration and production in the Asia-Pacific, Jean-Marie Guillermou, said the acquisition represented an opportunity for Total to enter upstream search and recovery processes in the resource-rich Papua New Guinea.

"We are convinced that our partnership with Oil Search, a well-established oil and gas player in this country, is a very positive foundation for our future success in this venture," Mr Guillermou said.

The deal reinforced Total's exploration portfolio in the foothills and carbonates plays, and was in line with the company's strategy of strengthening its presence in the Asia Pacific, particularly in the gas and LNG sectors.

Oil Search's managing director Peter Botten said his company would continue as the operator, supplemented by expertise from Total.

"In the event of exploration and appraisal success that leads to an LNG project, Total would develop and operate the downstream facilities of any development," he said.

The transaction was the culmination of a bid selection process with international oil and gas players.

An offshore drilling program is expected to start in the first quarter of 2013.

AAP