Premier Oil Plc, the U.K. crude and natural gas explorer focusing on Vietnam and Indonesia, will join Hess Corp. in exploring the North Red Sea off Egypt.

Premier will boost exploration spending by 25 percent to about $200 million in 2011 from this year, according to Chief Financial Officer Tony Durrant. The company raised its debt facility by $470 million to $1.8 billion to fund projects and also extend the maturity of its borrowings.

The Egyptian development will be “venturing us a little bit into deepwater,” Durrant said in a phone interview. There “are two separate geological plays with some very large potential” that are “high risk at this stage.”

The London-based company aims to drill 23 wells in the next 13 months, targeting about 400 million barrels of oil equivalent resources, it said today in a statement. In addition to the project with Hess, the fifth-biggest U.S. oil company, Premier plans to explore the South Darag block in the Gulf of Suez.

The partners plan to drill the North Red Sea’s Block 1 in December, with a rig previously used by Cairn Energy Plc off Greenland.

(Source: bloomberg.com)