Development of Block-34, which covers an area of about 11,500 square kilometres, will be carried out in two successive phases. The first phase will focus on extensive geological studies and seismic surveys of the area over a two-year period. Total’s existing assets in Oman include a 4 per cent stake in Petroleum Development Oman (PDO)and a 5.5 per cent interest in Oman LNG. It was the operator of Block-4 up until late 2001, when it relinquished the concession.

The ministry’s medium-term goal is to increase production capacity to 1 million barrels a day (b/d) of oil from about 910,000 b/d at present. It is in the process of letting a number of open exploration blocks. Last March, Denmark’s Maersk Oil & Gaswas awarded blocks 45 and 48 near the border with Saudi Arabia. In November, the US’ Hunt Oil Companysigned a four-year exploration agreement for Block-50, located off the east coast (MEED 30:11:01; 13:4:01).

PDO is also planning an extensive programme of field development. Tendering has already started for two major projects to increase output from the Qarn Alam field and the central Oman gas fields (MEED 14:2:02; 1:2:02).

A third project is also envisaged to boost oil production from the glutinous Mukhaizna field in the south of Oman to 100,000 b/d from 12,000-15,000 b/d. Front-end engineering and design (FEED) studies are expected to begin this year.