June 2 (UPI) -- Russian oil producer Gazprom Neft said Friday it signed an agreement with Austria's OMV to explore joint opportunities for possible exploration in Iran.
"According the extensive experience of OMV in the Middle East and in Iran, joint geological assessment of blocks will be most effective," Vadim Yakovlev, the first deputy general director of Gazprom Neft, said in a statement.
Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zangeneh met on the sidelines of a conference steered by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna with Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller last week. While Miller was mum on the details of the conversation, Iran is looking to regain a market share lost to sanctions enacted in response to its foreign policy stance in the region and lingering issues related to its nuclear research program.
For OMV, the Iranian government in January included the Austrian company on a list of 29 foreign oil and gas companies that are qualified to take part in any upcoming tenders for exploration and production. It's one of the early movers back into the Iranian energy sector among European companies, signing an agreement early this year for potential work with Iran's Dana Energy Co., a company with a role in exploration and development.
An OPEC member, Iran is one of the few producers in the group with room to enhance production under a multilateral agreement that limits output in order to balance the market.
The agreement between Gazprom Neft and OMV outlines areas of joint interest in Iran, including oil reserve assessments and cooperation with the National Iranian Oil Co.
OMV said working with Russian companies on exploration and production was a new, but core, part of its strategy.
"It fits into our upstream [exploration and production] strategy to link the activities and partnerships in Russia with possible new opportunities for OMV in the Middle East," Johann Pleininger, the board member responsible for upstream, said.