Oman has awarded its offshore Block 52, tendered in its ongoing bid round, to Italian oil major Eni, marking the firm’s entry into the sultanate’s energy sector, the company said in a statement.

Block 52 is spread across a largely unexplored area of 90,000 square kilometres with promising liquid hydrocarbons potential, where depths range between 10 and 2,000 metres.

MEED reported that Oman was set to award the four tendered concessions – northwestern blocks 30 and 31 as well as the southern 49 and 52 – by the end of 2017.

Eni also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with upstream operator Oman Oil Company to undertake further exploration and production work in the country.

“This MoU and exploration in Block 52 will allow Eni to start cooperating and investing in such an important [Middle East] country and will enable our company to expand its presence in a key region of the Middle East, in line with our strategy of diversifying our exploration portfolio across basins with liquid hydrocarbons potential while keeping high-quality stakes throughout the exploration phase,” said Eni’s CEO Claudio Descalzi.

Oman launched the bid round in October to woo foreign exploration and production firms, many of which exited the tendered concessions in 2015. The country’s fiscal breakeven price and challenging terrain made profitability challenging at a time when oil prices had suffered massive declines.

Oman has recently favoured domestic exploration and production firms, awarding its Block 48 to Oman Oil Company Exploration & Production.