Qatar’s North Oil Company (NOC), launched by state-owned Qatar Petroleum (QP) and French oil major Total to explore the offshore Al-Shaheen field, will begin drilling this summer, the companies said in a statement.

Around 56 new wells will be drilled, with the mobilisation of two rigs during the summer and a third one will be added at the beginning of 2018. NOC will subsequently add two more phases to develop the field over the next five years.

“Our solid development plan for Al-Shaheen includes the drilling of more than 100 wells over the next 5 years and the implementation of new technologies in order to maintain production while preserving the highest safety standards and reducing operating costs,” said Total chief executive Patrick Pouyanné at the signing ceremony for the launch of the new operator.

Total replaced Danish oil company Maersk Oil, which had been operating the field since 1992 as joint operator of the concession, which lies 80km north of Ras Laffan.

In the 25-year contract, QP retains 70 per cent stake, while Total holds the rest of the new joint-venture. The Shaheen field, which produces 300,000 barrels a day of oil contributes to around half of Qatar’s oil production. Existing development on the field consists of 30 platforms and 300 wells.

The agreement caps a successful first half of the year for Total, which recently signed a $4.8bn agreement to develop phase 11 of the South Pars field with the National Iranian Oil Company.