TEHRAN, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Iran will be able to produce significant amounts of oil for the next 140 years even without new discoveries, the deputy oil minister said.
Iranian Deputy Oil Minister Mohsen Khojasteh-Mehr said Iran discovered 14 billion barrels of crude oil during the first three quarters of the Persian year, which begins March 20.
"Even in the absence of new discoveries, Iran will be capable of producing oil for the next 140 years," he was quoted by state-funded broadcaster Press TV as saying.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries stated in its monthly report for January that Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia were among member states that saw crude oil production decline, however.
Press TV reports that Iran holds the third-largest deposits of proven oil reserves in the world. Based on 2011 figures, the U.S. Energy Department's Energy Information Administration, however, puts Iran in the No. 5 spot in terms of production. EIA states that Iran in 2011 held the fourth-largest proven oil reserves in the world.
International sanctions imposed in response to Iran's controversial nuclear program have handicapped the country's energy sector. Tehran, however, still managed to find an overseas consumer base. OPEC reports that Iranian crude oil accounted for about 7 percent of Chinese imports.