It is not a market that usually attracts attention, but 2012 could prove to be a huge year for engineering firms working in Oman’s oil and gas sector.

In April, UK oil major BP is expected to launch the first in a series of engineering, procurement and construction tenders for surface facilities at its giant $15bn Khazzan tight gas project. BP is in talks with the Omani government over the field development plan and commercial agreements, and bids could be submitted before the end of the year.

Muscat has established a valuable niche for itself, with a reputation of technical expertise in oil recovery techniques

Not far behind are two multibillion-dollar enhanced oil recovery [EOR] schemes planned by Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), the sultanate’s largest oil and gas producer. Engineering and design firms have been asked to express interest in the schemes, which aim to develop technically challenging tight oil and gas reservoirs. Until now, these reservoirs have been dormant, as the techniques to extract them commercially have not been available.

Apart from leading the Gulf in new EOR ventures, the deals would also be a significant boost to the Oman project market, which is often overshadowed by its Gulf neighbours. In 2011, the sultanate awarded only six major oil and gas projects, worth an estimated $1.1bn.

Muscat has established a valuable niche for itself, with a reputation of technical expertise in oil recovery techniques. Declining oil production, rising oil prices and increased demand for both oil and gas, stemming from the growth of industry in Oman, have made investment in EOR schemes economically viable.

With its oil fields geologically complex and now in their twilight years, Oman has led the way, investing in a range of EOR technologies. PDO has several schemes planned or under way. If all goes to plan, the Yibal Khuff and Budour projects could result in contract awards by mid-2014 and produce their first oil and gas by 2019.