Pars Oil & Gas Company (POGC) has announced the discovery of a new oil layer at the offshore Ferdowsi gas field in the Gulf, containing an estimated 34 billion barrels of reserves.

Appraisal drilling operations are under way to obtain more accurate reports on the deposit, says Ali Vakili, POGC’s managing director, state-owned Shana news reports.

In 2009, UK oil major BP estimated Iran has 137.6 billion barrels in proven crude reserves. However, Oil Minister Masoud Mirkazemi announced in October that the Islamic Republic had raised its estimated reserves figure to 150.31 billion barrels.

Analysts have been sceptical of the new figure, coming only a week after neighbouring Iraq revised its own reserves estimates by 24 per cent to 143 billion barrels, from 115 billion barrels, taking it past Iran and the world’s third-largest producer.

National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) signed a five-year service contract with Malaysia’s SKS Oil & Gas International in December 2007, for development of the 13 trillion cubic feet Ferdowsi and nearby Golshan gas fields. NIOC hopes to produce 500 million cubic feet a day (cf/d) from the Ferdowsi field for domestic consumption.

The development of Golshan, located about 65 kilometres offshore in the Gulf, is intended to produce 2,000 cf/d to supply to Iran’s stalled liquefied natural gas production programme.