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Thu 6 Dec 2007 02:22 AM

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Iran needs $160bn energy investment

Oil minister says sanctions will not prevent country from attracting investments to develop sector.

Iran needs $150-$160 billion investment in its oil and gas sector to boost output capacity over the next seven years, Iranian Oil Minister Gholamhossein Nozari said yesterday.

UN and US sanctions over Iran's nuclear programme would not prevent the country from attracting the huge investment - as much as $480 billion over the next 20 years - needed to develop its energy sector, Nozari said.

"We have made an opportunity out of those threats," he told a news briefing after an Opec meeting in the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

Iran has begun development of some fields earmarked for international companies itself and will use cash from the early oil sales to expand them, Nozari said. Opec’s second largest producer would also use cash from its Oil Stabilization fund to boost capacity, he added.

The fund was set up several years ago to save windfall oil earnings at times of high prices so that the extra cash could be use in times of need if prices tumbled or to finance investment projects.

In seven years, Iran aims to reach oil capacity of 5.6 million barrels per day (bpd) from around 4.3 million bpd now. The gas capacity target is around 1 billion cubic metres per day from around 500 million cubic metres per day now, he added.

The giant Azadegan oilfield would produce around 50,000 bpd next year, Nozari said. Iran has gone ahead with development of the field after talks collapsed with Japan's INPEX Holdings in 2006. Other fields included in the development plan were Darkhovin and Yadavaran, he said.

The threat of further UN sanctions and US pressure have stalled investment in Iran's energy sector.

In October, Iran urged Total and Royal Dutch Shell to finalise their deals on the giant South Pars gas project by mid-2008 or lose the contracts, after the two oil firms delayed final decisions on projects.

Domestic political wrangling had also threatened Iran's plans to make itself a big player on the global gas stage.

Some politicians in Iran have said the country needs the gas for domestic consumption and should scale back export plans.

Nozari said he believed he had had some success in pushing the case for the gas exporting projects to go ahead.

Iran was discussing with Total ways to reduce the cost of the Pars LNG project, Nozari said, including breaking the development plan down into smaller packages to encourage competition among medium-sized contractors for the field.
Iran was still negotiating the price of a deal to sell gas to the UAE's Crescent Petroleum, Nozari said.

Construction of the long-delayed offshore Salman gas field infrastructure to supply gas to the UAE for distribution by Dana Gas was close to completion, he added.

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