Crude oil production could reach 4.5 million barrels per day (bpd) by the end of the state's fourth five-year development plan between 2005 and 2010, well under the original production target of 5 million bpd, Gholam Hossein Nozari of Iranian national oil said on Tuesday.

 

"We are not close to the 5 million bpd target of the fourth plan. More than 80% of the current total oil output is being provided from aged oilfields that need serious investment to increase production," he said.

 

He put the country's current oil production at 4.08 million bpd, which is 30,000 less than its Opec quota.

 

The main challenge of Opec's number two oil producer, Nozari said, was the maintenance of oil reservoirs or increasing the recovery rate.

 

He announced that the country would soon put out tenders for exploration-development packages of 24 oil blocks.

 

Major development plans of oilfields that need substantial foreign investment have been held up by protracted negotiations between Iran and foreign investors over disputes on the rising costs of operations.

 

International concerns

 

Another problem stems from the standoff over Iran's nuclear programme, as the country refuses to comply with Western demands to suspend uranium enrichment.

 

The UN Security Council has set August 31 as the deadline for Iran to halt its sensitive atomic work or risk economic sanctions.

 

Nozari, however, stressed that the oil ministry was ready to  deal with any UN Security Council sanctions.

 

"In case of any sanctions against the country, the oil ministry will be in the frontline and we have prepared for serious work in this regard," he said.