Oman's oil minister has signed two oil and gas exploration contracts worth $58m (OMR22.3m), paving the way for 19 offshore drilling wells to be set up in the sultanate.

Occidental Oman signed two agreements with the ministry – one exclusively for itself, and one as part of a joint venture with Oman Oil Company Exploration and Production. Both deals were signed with Oman's Ministry of Oil and Gas on 16 December, 2018.

The deals grant exploration rights for two concessions, one of which is Block 65 that covers 1,230km² and may hold oil. The other, Block 51, spans 10,133km² and may have gas reserves.

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Both companies are required to invest substantially in the blocks to carry out seismic and geophysical studies and drill oil wells.

Occidental Oman will invest $32m (OMR12.3m) in Block 65, while Oman Oil Company Exploration and Production will pump $12m (OMR4.6m) into the concession block. Nine drilling wells will be set up in two phases over a six-year period for it.

Meanwhile, $14m (OMR5.3m) will be invested by Occidental Oman in Block  51 over six-year period in two phases, during which it will drill five exploration wells to look for gas assets.

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Oman's government said new blocks for the exploration of oil and gas will be offered to the market in 2019 as the sultanate looks to increase hydrocarbon reserves and production rates.

The two oil and gas contracts agreed were signed by Dr Mohammed bin Hamad al-Rumhy, Oman's Minister of Oil and Gas, as well as senior-ranking businessmen from Occidental Oman and Oman Oil Company Exploration and Production.