28 Jan 2010 18:10

Gazprom Neft will enter projects by mid-year in Iran, Libya, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea

MOSCOW. Jan 28 (Interfax) - Gazprom Neft will enter into projects in Iran, Libya, Cuba and Equatorial Guinea by the middle of 2010, Boris Zilbermints, the deputy general director for exploration and production, told Interfax in an interview.

"By midyear we expect to catch up to our Russian competitors in terms of the number of countries where we operate. They have been engaged in foreign projects for a long time; we want to do in one year what took them many years," he said.

Gazprom Neft signed a contract on development of the Badra field in Iraq on Thursday. In order to begin work this year, the partners in the Badra project - Korean Kogas, Malaysian Petronas and Turkish TPAO - will invest more than $200 million including the signing bonus. Gazprom Neft will be responsible for 40% of that amount.

Gazprom Neft also sees great promise in Iran. "Talks with Iran on the specific terms of operations were greatly simplified by Gazprom Neft's victory in the Iraq tender. I hope that by the end of the first half of 2010 Gazprom Neft will achieve a consensus on its entry as operator into development of Azar and Shangule," he said.

Libya is Gazprom Neft's priority in Africa, he said. In the first half of the year the company will become a participant in the Elephant project. "Overall Gazprom Neft plans to become a serious player on the Libyan market. If we succeed, we plan to raise the company's share of production to 'critical mass' - no less than 10% of the country's oil output," Zilbermints said.

Another African project is geological exploration on Equatorial Guinea's continental shelf. Gazprom Neft recently initialed the agreement on the project, and expects the document signing to come in March-April.

The company also plans to begin operations in Cuba closer to midyear. "Gazprom Neft was able to agree entry into a geological exploration project being conducted on a production-sharing basis with one of the companies that have rights to exploration and production on the shelf," he said.