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Former operator Inpex considers bidding for Iran's Azadegan oil field

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Dubai — Japan's largest upstream company, Inpex, will consider bidding to develop the Azadegan oil field in Iran when the tender is finally issued, a company spokesman said Tuesday.

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"Inpex is in the process of gathering information and conducting updates as necessary. Inpex will consider its response once the tender is published and the terms and conditions pertaining to the tender and oil contract are clarified," a company spokesman said.

National Iranian Oil Co. CEO Ali Kardor said Sunday that Iran would issue the tender for the development of the Azadegan oil field by June 2, with 29 international oil companies invited to participate.

Oil minister Bijan Zanganeh said last week that his ministry was finalizing a single tender for the development of the entire field, which would be the first to be launched under Iran's much-delayed new model contract.

The tender will cover both the North and South segments of the field.

Discovered in 1999 in the southern province of Khuzestan province near the border with Iraq, the field is estimated to hold between 33 billion and 42 billion barrels of oil in place, making it Iran's largest onshore field.

Inpex had been the operator of the South Azadegan field from 2004 with a 75% stake in the development. It cut its stake to 10% in 2006 under pressure from tighter US sanctions on Iran, transferring the operatorship to Naftiran Intertrade, an NIOC subsidiary.

In 2010, the company withdrew completely, following the Japanese government's decision to impose additional sanctions on Iran.

But it was one of five companies which signed an agreement with NIOC for studies on the South Azadegan field last June.

The northern portion of the field was being operated by China National Petroleum Corp. under Iran's old buyback contract model until 2014. The new Iran Petroleum Contract model, which is yet to be published, will replace the buyback contract.

Production at the field is currently less than 50,000 b/d, but NIOC hopes to increase it to between 300,000 b/d and 320,000 b/d.

--Adal Mirza,
--Edited by E Shailaja Nair,