Iran is currently scouring 60 percent of its total area for new oil and gas reserves, including in places which were deemed until recently the least likely to have hydrocarbon-bearing formations.
One such place is the country’s northwest, generally attributed as the Iranian Azarbaijan, where preliminary studies indicate the existence of oil reservoirs, head of exploration at the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) Saleh Hendi says.
“Our preliminary studies show that hydrocarbon resources are likely to be found in the Bostanabad and Miyaneh regions of East Azarbaijan Province,” he told reporters in Tehran.
“We will soon begin the detailed operational work to further examine these two areas,” he added.
An exploration block with a proven hydrocarbon system has already been found to the north in an area known as the Moghan basin in Ardabil Province.
Hendi said 35-40 new hydrocarbon reservoirs have been discovered across Iran, which need development. “We are now ranked first in the world for oil and gas reserves.”
In the Sea of Oman, Iran struck gas at a depth of 800 meters. Hendi said drilling of exploration blocks is currently limited to the Persian Gulf and the country’s southwest and northeast.
Iran’s oil industry is headed for choppy waters from US re-enactment of sanctions, but the country’s officials are undeterred.
In May, Hendi said 14 blocks were planned to be tendered for exploration this year and predicted at least six of them to be attractive to foreign investors.
But foreign companies refused to participate in the tenders due to the sanctions, he said on Monday.
That does not mean Iran’s development operations are grounded. Hendi said the sanctions will accelerate the growth of domestic capabilities.
“A few years ago, we were begging to foreign and even Chinese companies for the purchase of some drilling equipment, but we have now become self-sufficient for them,” he said.
“After the enactment of the new US sanctions against Iran, no problem has arisen and our exploration plans have not changed,” he added.
On Monday, NIOC dismissed reports that Russian state oil giant Rosneft had canceled plans to invest in joint projects worth up to $30 billion in Iran due to US sanctions.
“There are no contracts signed with Rosneft, for the Russian company to withdraw from the Iranian oil industry and cut off its cooperation,” the company said in a statement.
In November 2017, Rosneft announced a draft deal to jointly work on several “strategic” contracts in Iran, which together would bring up to $30 billion in investments and result in a total output of up to 55 million tonnes of oil per year.
NIOC said only a memorandum of understanding had been signed with Rosneft and no contract had been concluded between them.
Russia’s Zarubezhneft clinched another preliminary deal in March to re-develop Iran’s Aban and West Paydar oil fields near the Iraqi border in a joint project with Iran’s Dana Energy.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi on Monday dismissed reports that Chinese and Russian companies were withdrawing from Iranian oil projects under US pressure.
He said unless there were any official confirmations, such reports always amounted to “psychological warfare.”