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Bids have been invited by 1 January 2006 by the Oil & Gas Ministry for five blocks in acreage recently relinquished by Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) from its block 6 concession. Data packages are under preparation and are due to be ready for interested companies by mid-September. Blocks 54, 55 and 56, covering a total area of about 19,000 square kilometres, are located on the eastern side of the South Oman Salt Basin. Blocks 57 and 58 are situated on the western side of the basin and span about 4,545 square kilometres. Both areas are relatively under-explored, the western acreage in particular, where only one well has been drilled. Existing production from South Oman Salt Basin is about 173,000 barrels a day. PDO, in which the Royal Dutch/Shell Groupis the main foreign shareholder, formally returned 10 per cent of block 6 to the government in July, in accordance with the terms of an agreement to extend its concession over the remainder by 40 years (MEED 8:7:05).