Iran to Start Offshore Drilling In Caspian Sea by Early 2013

By Patrick Burke | April 6, 2012 | 1:34pm EDT

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (AP Photo)

( -- Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qassemi announced the success of Iran’s offshore oil exploration program in the Caspian Sea on Apr. 5 and predicted that Iran will be drilling and then exporting domestically produced gasoline by the end of the Iranian calendar year, which began in March, reported Press TV, the first Iranian international news network.

Ali Usuli, head of the state-run Iranian oil company “NheftKhazar,” confirmed the claims of the oil minister, saying Iran will begin drilling in the Caspian provided the coastal Iranian province of Mazandaran can provide the financial backing necessary for further exploration and extraction.

Despite the heavy sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear program, Oil Minister Qassemi insisted there is still high demand in the world for Iranian-produced crude oil and there are “no problems” facing the Iranian oil industry.

"Iran has between 17 to 20 percent of the world's gas reserves and also between 12 to 15 percent of the world's crude oil reserves. It also ranks first in terms of overall energy resources. The energy resources of some countries are not comparable with those of Iran," he said.

Although Qassemi is confident about the high demand for Iranian crude, Asian countries in February significantly cut the amount of oil they import from Iran. Last month, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that Asian oil consumers that do not have dealings with the Iranian Central Bank will be exempt from U.S. sanctions imposed on international companies that do business with Iran.

Asian countries reportedly make up approximately 65 percent of Iran’s crude oil consumers.

In December 2011, Qassemi said there were a total of 11 trillion cubic meters of Iranian- controlled oil reserves in the Caspian, but that this estimate could increase exponentially once further exploration takes place.

In addition to discussing the oil reserves in the Caspian, Qassemi said the Iranian oil industry will require a minimum $30-billion investment from the government, the majority of which he said will go towards the South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf that Iran shares with Qatar.

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