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Iran aims to close 10 upstream contracts by mid-2018

11 Jul 2017 14:00 (+01:00 GMT)
Iran aims to close 10 upstream contracts by mid-2018

Istanbul, 11 July (Argus) — Iran has set its sights on signing up to 10 upstream contracts with foreign oil companies by the middle of next year.

Tehran last week secured the first such contract since being freed from all nuclear-related sanctions in January 2016, with Total.

"The volume of that investment will be around $5bn," state-owned NIOC's deputy director for development and engineering Reza Dehghan said at the World Petroleum Congress in Istanbul today. "For other fields, we are now negotiating with other international oil companies, and we hope that within the next six to 10 months, we will be able to sign about 10 more contracts."

Iran has been working to draw foreign companies and investment back to its oil and gas sector since the implementation of the nuclear deal with six world powers in mid-2015, which resulted in the lifting of nuclear-related US and EU sanctions at the start of last year.

NIOC and the oil ministry have offered around $130bn worth of investment opportunities in Iran's upstream oil and gas sector, along with a new upstream investment contract — the Iran Petroleum Contract (IPC) — designed to entice foreign companies to return after a near decade-long absence.

Iran's crude production capacity stands at around 4mn b/d, and its gas production capacity at around 850mn m³/d, according to Dehghan. NIOC's plans envisage raising these to 4.8mn b/d and around 1,300mn m³/d within five years, he said. The country's current five-year development plan to March 2021 targets an increase in crude production capacity to 4.63mn b/d.

Dehghan today said NIOC would require "around $140bn of investment," to achieve its targets, with a preference of "at least two-thirds" of this coming from foreign sources. Iran's oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said last week that around 70pc of the country's upstream investment requirement is likely to come from abroad.

NIOC has since the start of 2016 signed 22 preliminary agreements with foreign companies and eight with Iranian companies to carry out six-month studies on select oil and gas fields and in turn submit development proposals. Once the proposals are in, "NIOC can decide what the next step will be: to go through a tender, or [direct] negotiations to sign a contract," Dehghan said.

The first of these agreements, signed with Total in Paris in late-January 2016, resulted in what was Iran's first major binding contract with a foreign oil company in the post sanctions era. A consortium comprising Total, China's state-owned CNPC and NIOC subsidiary Petropars was on 4 July awarded a 20-year contract to develop phase 11 of the supergiant offshore South Pars gas field.

Before the finalization of the Total contract, NIOC managing director Ali Kardor had said Iran was aiming to finalise contracts worth a combined $15bn before the end of the current Iranian year in March 2018. He singled out contracts for the development of phase 11, the South Pars oil layer and the Azadegan oil field as priorities.

Dehghan today largely echoed Kardor, but offered a more ambitious timeframe.

"We are planning to award [contracts for] more projects by the end of the Christian year. I cannot say exactly how many we will be able to award," he said. "But… negotiations will take between six to 10 months. If that happens, then by the end of the year, we will have been able to sign another two or three contracts, I hope."

Zanganeh has previously said the majority of upstream contracts will likely be awarded through direct negotiations rather than tenders. To date, NIOC had only formally announced plans to launch a tender for the development of the giant Azadegan oil field, close to the border with Iraq. But Dehghan said similar plans are also being drawn up for the Yadavaran oil field, also in western Iran.

"We have two tenders at hand," he said. "These are for two very large fields in Iran — Azadegan and Yadavaran. For Azadegan we have already invited shortlisted companies, and for Yadavaran we will be inviting shortlisted companies very soon." Dehghan said combined production from these fields will top 1mn b/d "within the next five to 10 years." Production from the two fields is currently just shy of 300,000 b/d.

Dehghan said tender documents for the Azadegan oil field would be published and delivered to the shortlisted companies "in a matter of weeks." Around 20 companies have been shortlisted to participate in this first tender, he said.

Total, Shell, Japan's Inpex, Malaysia's state-owned Petronas and CNPC have all carried out studies on the project and are likely to participate in the tender.