DUBAI, Dec 12 (Reuters) – Total has signed an exploration and production-sharing agreement for a deepwater block offshore Oman, the French company said on Thursday.
Block 41, which lies off the Omani coast northwest of the capital Muscat, covers almost 24,000 square kilometres of seabed at depths of up to 3,000 metres.
"This acquisition is aligned with Total's ambitious exploration strategy focused on frontier basins and new plays with strong potential," said Arnaud Breuillac, Total's head of exploration for the Middle East.
One of the world's biggest oil and gas producing companies, Total is already involved in challenging deepwater projects off West Africa, in the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. It plans to start exploring in the Gulf of Oman next year.
India's Reliance Industries had previously signed agreements to develop the offshore Blocks 41 but has relinquished rights to explore either of them.
Most of Oman's oil production is onshore. But Norwegian oil firm DNO started pumping oil and gas from Oman's first offshore fields, in Block 8 in the relatively shallow waters of the Gulf near the Strait of Hormuz, in 2012.
Omani oil production fell from a peak of around 960,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2001 to 715,000 bpd in 2007, according to figures from BP, although improved techniques helped buoy output from mature onshore fields and raise 2012 output to 922,000 bpd.
Small non-OPEC oil producer Oman is also trying to boost its onshore gas output to meet booming domestic demand.
(Reporting by Daniel Fineren; editing by David Holmes and Jason Neely)
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