Iran intends to unveil the winners for phases 9-12 of its giant South Pars gas field on March 13, an Iranian oil official said yesterday.
International oil companies have submitted rival bids to develop phases 9-12 of Iran's prized, offshore South Pars field, estimated to hold 12 trillion cubic feet of gas - about seven per cent of world reserves.

U.S. companies, locked out of Iran by Washington's unilateral trade sanctions, did not place bids, the official told Reuters. The phases will be awarded either on Iran's standard buy-back terms - where foreign investors are compensated in output - or through direct financing, the official added. He said a total of 24 companies had sent applications, but 20 of them were still in the race. He refused to give names.

But the official said Petropars - a semi-official Iranian company heavily involved in some of the other phases of the South Pars - was not included. Petropars has been created out of National Iranian Oil Co's pension and retirement funds.

Industry sources reckon each phase will require investment of about $1 billion. Contracts worth more than $7 billion already have been sealed for the first eight of South Pars' 25 phases, but implementation has suffered delays.

The $770 million first phase, handled exclusively by Petropars, has been dogged by procurement problems, the official said. But the work programme has been rescheduled, with an aim to completing the project by September 2002, he added.

Investment of $2 billion is required for phases 2-3, which involves a consortium of French TotalFinaElf, Russian Gazprom and Malaysian Petronas.
Phases 4-5, involving Italian ENI and Iran's Petropars, will need investment of $1.896 billion while phases 6-8 featuring Petropars and UK Enterprise Oil will require funding of some $2.65 billion.