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Iran to sign seven new upstream contracts by October: NIOC official

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Tehran — The National Iranian Oil Co wants to finalize seven upstream contracts with foreign investors worth around $40 billion by October and has also introduced 14 exploration blocks to be tendered in the near future, NIOC officials said Monday.

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The investment will be in at least 10 oil fields, the deputy head of NIOC for development and engineering, Gholamreza Manouchehri, told reporters at a conference in Tehran.

"We plan to finalize the contracts under the current challenging climate," Manouchehri said. "We have this plan supposedly, the western companies keep delaying [their final decision], and we expect to sign the deals with Iranian and non-western companies. If Western companies show more interest, as we are still in talks with them, we will be able to sign more contracts by October which marks end of the first half of the current Iranian year."

Iran's ambitious planning continues for the next half of the year by aiming at another 10 projects under negotiation, he added.

"We plan to finalize these contracts by March 2019," Manouchehri said.

Manouchehri elaborated on a domestic broad plan, under which Iranian contractors carry out enhanced oil recovery and improved oil recovery to spare the country from losing 400,000 b/d of oil in older fields. The job involves surface facilities, tanks, pipelines, platforms and well drilling, he said. The $6 billion project covers 30 fields and will take two years to finish from September, Manouchehri said.

Saleh Hendi, head of NIOC exploration, pointed to the official introduction of 14 onshore blocks, which cover over 80,000 km in six sedimentary areas. The blocks include both known, highly-potential blocks and new ones.

The Bamdad, Mahan and Parsa blocks are in the Persian Gulf Basin, while the onshore Zagros-Lurestan holds the Zahab Block and the Zagros-Abadan plain-Dezful holds the Timab and Abadan blocks. The two groups are along the western border of Iran with Iraq. The Tudej Block is in the Zagros-Fars Basin, while the Kopeh Dagh Basin blocks, in Iran's northeast and straddling its border with Turkmenistan, are the Sarakhs, Dousti and Raz. The Moghan Basin block is west of the Caspian Sea, while Kavir is located in the central basin and the

Frontier Basin that straddles Iran's borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan holds the Taybad and Sistan blocks, respectively.

"Tenders are scheduled for July," Hendi said. "Each block contains several prospects, can be three up to seven-eight. For example the eastern blocks in the Sistan-Baluchistan have little potential and are less attractive but other parts of the country offer bigger reservoirs. If the exploration turns non-commercial, the explorer company will not be reimbursed," he added.

--Mriganka Jaipuriyar,

--Aresu Eqbali,

--Edited by Richard Rubin,