The location, size and prospects of any blocks have yet to be made public, although the state-run firm is thought to have already started informal, preliminary talks with a number of oil companies.

Exploration and appraisal work is being carried out by international oil companies on six blocks in Qatar. But with around half of Qatar’s territorial area classified as open, QP is targeting more involvement by oil majors.

Denmark’s Maersk Oil recently agreed a drilling field development plan as part of ongoing work on the $5bn Al-Shaheen oil field, which aims to boost overall capacity to 525,000-barrels-a-day (b/d) by 2009, from 240,000 b/d at the moment (MEED 28:2:08).

The overall lift in crude supplies from Al-Shaheen will see Qatar’s oil supply reaching 1.1m b/d by the end of 2009.