State-owned upstream operator Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) will issue a tender for its much-delayed offshore exploration programme in January, according to its chief executive Jamal Jaafar.

The offshore programme would include six oil wells, he said in comments reported by Kuwaiti daily Al-Anba.

Offshore drilling contract for the project to be tendered will be awarded in January 2018, he added.

Budget for the operation has not been allocated yet, as offshore drilling is “still new to the company”, added Jaafar.

Kuwait had initially planned to tender its offshore field development contracts in the fourth quarter of 2015 but low oil prices had delayed the project.

Jaafar had said last year that seismic and data interpretation work had been completed on six potential offshore areas for exploration.

He had also added that KOC was in the process of tendering two contracts associated with its offshore exploration programme, one covering logistics and the other specific to the location of offshore rigs.

Kuwait is looking to boost production capacity from offshore projects in order to compensate for loss of production from the Divided Neutral Zone, which it shares with Saudi Arabia.

Al-Khafji and Wafra, the neutral zone fields have been shut since 2014 and 2015 for environmental reasons and operating difficulties respectively.

There were rumours in December 2016 that Kuwait was looking to restart production from the neutral zone fields, though neither country has officially confirmed the reports.

KOC planned to increase production capacity of crude oil by 700,000 barrels a day from onshore and offshore fields, added the al-Anba report.

In January, Kuwait cut output by 130,000 b/d in compliance with Opec’s production cuts, which will be in place for the first six months of 2017.

The Gulf state plans to increase production to four million barrels a day by 2020.