The licensing round covers three offshore blocks, 18A, 18B and 41, with a total area of 45,000 square kilometres, running from the south of Muscat up to the edge of the Musandam. Water depths range from 1,000 metres in the 7,000-square-kilometre block 18A up to 2,000-3,000 metres in the 23,000-square-kilometre block 41. Interested companies have been requested to submit separate proposals for each block.

Seismic acquisition in the blocks started in 1965 with a consortium headed by Germany’s Wintershall. The consortium subsequently drilled two wells, which yielded initial oil and gas shows, but then decided to relinquish the blocks. Over the next 20 years, further seismic work was carried out by Cluff Resources, IPL, BHP Petroleum and most recently the Royal Dutch/Shell Group. Following Shell’s relinquishment of block 18 in early 2002, the ministry and PGS shot 5,800 kilometres of 2D seismic surveys in the three blocks.

In addition to the three Gulf of Oman concessions, there are six other blocks open in the sultanate, all of which are located onshore.