July 5 (UPI) -- Invitations have been sent out to verified companies to take part in the development of the inland Azadegan oil field, Iran's oil minister said Wednesday.
Iran shares borders with Iraq in the Azadegan oil field, which is estimated by Iran to hold around 6 billion barrels of recoverable oil reserves. Past contracts with China National Petroleum Corp. were torn up because the Chinese side wasn't meeting Iran's expectations.
Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zangeneh said Wednesday the process has started to bring foreign energy companies back into the fold.
"Some verified companies have been invited," he was quoted as saying by the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
Zangeneh in May said Iran "will hopefully" sign the first contracts for Azadegan by the end of July. It would be the first oil contract signed since sanction pressures on Iran eased under a multilateral nuclear brokered in 2015.
Royal Dutch Shell was among the first companies to buy Iranian crude oil in the post-sanctions era. Earlier this week, a consortium of French energy company Total, China National Petroleum Corp. and Petropars Ltd., a subsidiary of the state-run National Iranian Oil Co., signed a 20-year contract to help develop parts of the giant South Pars natural gas field in the Persian Gulf.
Consultant group Wood Mackenzie estimated developing Phase 11 of the South Pars field would require about $5 billion in investments and yield about 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
The Iranian Oil Ministry published a list in January of 29 foreign oil and gas companies that are qualified to take part in any upcoming tenders for exploration and production. The National Iranian Oil Co., a target of U.S. sanctions, said the list represented a "big step" in opening Iranian oil and natural gas fields up to Western investors.
Schlumberger, the largest oil- and gas-field services company in the world, is the only one on the list that has offices in the United States.