World News

Iran's Azadegan oilfield to go on stream next week: paper

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran’s biggest oilfield, Azadegan, will come on stream next week, a newspaper reported on Saturday, a key project in plans to gradually boost output capacity in the world’s fourth-largest crude producer.

Seifollah Jashnsaz, managing director of the National Iranian South Oil Company, said Oil Minister Gholamhossein Nozari would attend a February 9 opening ceremony, the report carried by the English-language Tehran Times said.

Azadegan, located in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, is Iran’s biggest oilfield. In-place reserves have been put at 26 billion barrels.

“It is estimated that the seven wells of the oil field (will) produce 25,000 barrels of oil per day,” Jashnsaz was quoted as saying.

Experts were working on a plan to increase output further to 50,000 bpd, he said, but did not give details on timing. Nozari last month suggested this figure could be reached during 2008.

Iran had previously said it expected the first six wells to produce 20,000 bpd.

Japan’s INPEX Holdings Inc had been due to develop the field but talks collapsed in 2006, with the Japanese firm citing spiraling investment costs. INPEX retains a 10 percent stake.

Iran, OPEC’s second-largest exporter, produces around 4 million bpd, but says it aims to reach a capacity of 5.6 million bpd in seven years.

Analysts say Iran, under U.N. and U.S. sanctions over its disputed nuclear program, needs major foreign investment and expertise in order to meet production targets.

Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Jan Dahinten