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Iran sees Maersk role in South Pars oil effort

Maersk confirms memorandum of understanding signed with Iranian counterpart.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Iran says its considering with with Danish company Maersk to get at oil locked in the South Pars complex in the Persian Gulf. File photo by Maryam Rahmanian/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/94589bae01ea2cbb2ce8fd5b71e0b973/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Iran says its considering with with Danish company Maersk to get at oil locked in the South Pars complex in the Persian Gulf. File photo by Maryam Rahmanian/UPI | License Photo

TEHRAN, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Iran said it's reached out to Danish energy company Maersk to coordinate on ways to get oil out of the South Pars reservoir in the Persian Gulf.

According to state-funded broadcaster Press TV, the National Iranian Oil Co. aims to drill more than 300 wells into a layer of oil found in the South Pars natural gas field in the Persian Gulf. NIOC Director Gholam-Reza Manuchehri said his company was in talks with Maersk to find ways to get at the oil.

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"Using modern technologies and horizontal drilling in view of the heaviness of the oil at the South Pars layer are the most important development scenarios for this oil field which is shared with Qatar," he said.

Production rates using horizontal wells have the potential to be seven times greater than vertical wells. An offset, however, is higher drilling costs. Only a few companies can handle the technology needed for such activity offshore and Manuchehri said Maersk was a powerful candidate for the role.

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With the right drilling program in place, the NIOC said it could produce as much as 200,000 barrels of oil per day from the South Pars complex.

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According to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, of which Iran is a member, secondary sources reported total September crude oil production at around 3.7 million bpd, about a half percent higher than the previous month. According to Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh, the figure was closer to 4 million bpd, a level he said was near Iran's peak from before nuclear-related sanctions were enacted in 2012.

Iran aims to boost crude oil production to around 5.7 million bpd by 2021. With sanctions pressures easing as a result of a multilateral nuclear agreement, Iran is slowly opening the doors to foreign investors.

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A.P. Moeller-Maersk in September announced it was splitting the company in two, with its oil-related business spinning off to focus on the North Sea. In June, the company had advanced on a restructuring plan by sidelining top executives and by then had already announced plans to cut about 40 positions from its regional offices.

A spokesperson for Maersk Oil confirmed to UPI outreach was made with Iran, though many of the commercial details remained confidential.

"Iran remains a potential market for new business activity for Maersk Oil," the spokesperson said. "We have signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Iranian Oil Co. to explore opportunities for future collaboration."

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