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Sat 6 Dec 2008 11:14 PM

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Iran's oil output over 4mn bpd - state firm

Figures at odds with OPEC representative, suggest non-compliance with cuts under Oct. agreement.

Iran is producing over 4 million barrels of crude per day (bpd), the head of the state oil firm was quoted as saying on Saturday, roughly 250,000 bpd more than an estimate provided by the country's OPEC governor.Iran's representative to the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Mohammad Ali Khatibi, said on Thursday the Islamic Republic was pumping at around 3.8 million bpd and was complying fully with its share of the cartel's oil supply cuts.

But Seifollah Jashnsaz, managing director of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), said in comments carried by the official IRNA news agency on Saturday:

"In view of OPEC's production cut that went into effect at the beginning of November, Iran's current crude oil production stands between 4,050,000-4,080,000 barrels per day."

A survey by newswire Reuters earlier this week put Iran's output in November at 3.9 million bpd, a higher figure than the one given by Khatibi but lower than the output cited by Jashnsaz.

The reason for the different figures for the crude output of Iran, OPEC's second-largest producer, was not clear and officials were not immediately available for comment.

In his Dec. 4 comments to Reuters, Khatibi said Iran had cut 199,000 bpd as required under OPEC's October agreement to reduce supply by 1.5 million bpd. He said Iran was pumping at around 4 million bpd before the October cut.

Khatibi's comments on compliance were at odds with industry estimates that Iran has met little of its pledge to reduce supply.

OPEC, source of more than a third of the world's oil, meets in Algeria later this month to discuss how to halt oil's fall of more than $100 from its July peak of over $147 a barrel as a global financial crisis hit energy demand in consumer nations.

Iran's Oil Minister Gholamhossein Nozari said last Sunday that the oil market was oversupplied by around 2 million bpd.

OPEC ministers meeting in Cairo on Nov. 29 deferred a decision on a new oil supply cut amid signs that Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies were demanding tighter adherence with previous restraints.

Delegates in Cairo flagged Iran and Venezuela, who have both urged deeper OPEC cuts, as sources of concern on quota compliance.

In Saturday's IRNA report, Jashnsaz did not mention any figures about Iranian output cuts, but said Iran's oil production capacity had reached 4.23 million bpd and expressed hope it would rise to 4.3 million by March next year.

Iran's crude oil export revenue so far in the 2008-09 Iranian year stood at $61 billion, he said, adding its average exports during the year amounted to 2.35 million bpd.

He said output from the Darkhovin oil field, in Iran's south-west, would increase by 60,000 bpd to 160,000 bpd by the end of the Iranian year that runs to March.

Echoing comments by another NIOC official this week, Jashnsaz said Iran would need around $160 billion for development projects within its oil and gas sector, saying it would have to rely on both domestic and foreign investment.

NIOC's director of planning, Abdolmohammad Delparish, told a seminar on Thursday that Iran needs investment of that magnitude in the next five years in its oil and gas industry.

Iran is the world's fourth largest oil producer, but despite sitting on the world's second biggest gas reserves has yet to become a major gas exporter. Jashnsaz said gas output had risen this year by around 70 million cubic metres to 580 million.

Analysts say especially Western companies are increasingly ware of investing in Iran due to tightening US and UN sanctions over its disputed nuclear programme. Asian countries have been more willing to sign contracts with Iran.

"We are planning to hold meetings both inside and outside the country and invite investors," Jashnsaz said. (Reuters)

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