With the 25-year deal with China now moving ahead at pace, Iran has a buyer for all of the crude oil it can produce, albeit at discounted levels, so Tehran is pushing oil field development across the board. This includes not only the major fields in the huge West Karoun cluster – across which China has pledged to increase collective output by at least 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) within the next two years – but also the more challenging fields that nonetheless are rich in oil, especially those that are shared with Iraq. In order to meet these challenges, Iran is resuscitating a program of engaging top domestic universities to work on the scientific challenges of increasing recovery rates, in addition to utilizing human, technological, and financial resources from China and Russia as and when required, with the Azar field being a test-case for such co-operation. Located in Mehran at the edge of the Zagros mountains and the other side of the shared reservoir that yields the Badra field on the Iraq side, Azar is poised to begin full Phase 1 production of 65,000 bpd. According to a statement last week from the Petroleum Engineering and Development Company’s (PEDEC) director of the Azar field project, Keyvan Yarahmadi: “With the successful commissioning of oil trains and the ancillary central processing facility, this project is on the verge of reaching its envisaged production capacity.” He added: “The SAT [Site Acceptance Testing] of the crude oil metering system in the joint field will be done soon and the production test of 21 out of 28 days of final production from this field will begin.” Even before the finalization of Phase 1 production, he underlined, the Azar field had already produced more than 30 million barrels of crude oil.
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