Once the signing takes place, the next steps on the estimated $2,000 million project will be the incorporation of the joint venture company and the start of exploration activity in January. The exploration area covers about 200,000 square kilometres in the Rub al-Khali area in the southeast, which was originally assigned to core venture 3 of the Saudi gas initiative. Under the terms of the agreement, Shell will assume the role of operator on the exploration, production and development and take a 40 per cent stake in the venture, with the remaining 60 per cent evenly split between Total and Aramco (MEED 31:10:03).