Oman is likely to sign contracts with oil companies on four concessions offered in its latest bid round by the end of 2017, according to Salim al-Aufi, undersecretary at the sultanate’s Ministry of Oil & Gas.

“The signing of contracts is expected at the end of the year,” he told reporters at the ministry’s annual media briefing held at Muscat.

MEED reported in February that the sultanate was in the final stages of selecting international oil and gas companies to develop blocks 30 and 49, for which results were expected in December and January respectively.

Block 30 is a 1,185-square-kilometre concession that straddles the Hajar mountains in the Omani interior, while the 15,439-sq-km Block 49 borders Saudi Arabia.

The latter was previously owned by Irish exploration and production company Circle Oil, which abandoned the block in 2015, citing “drilling difficulties”.

Other concessions on offer include the 8,526-sq-km Block 31 – previously owned by Norwegian energy firm DNO – in the north as well as the offshore 90,760-sq-km Block 52.

In recent times, Oman has seen an exit of foreign energy companies, which were deterred from exploration activities as the sultanate’s high breakeven price as well as the slump in oil prices made achieving profitability challenging.

The Ministry of Oil & Gas recently awarded Block 48 to Oman Oil Company Exploration & Production as it looks to engage more local companies in the upstream sector.