Iran has accepted a master development plan from China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) to develop its 33 billion barrel Azadegan oil field, in the south west of the country.

CNPC signed the deal after six months of negotiations with Iran’s Naft Iran Intertrade Company (Nico), according to Iran’s state-run news agency Shana.

Nico agreed to transfer 70 per cent of it shares to the Chinese energy company. Nico retains a 20 per cent stake in the field, with Japan’s Inpex Corporation holding the remaining 10 per cent.

National Iranian South Oil Company (Nisoc) announced on 7 July that production at the field had increased to 50,000 barrels a day (b/d) in the second phase of development from 35,000 b/d in November last year.

CNPC signed a memorandum of understanding with National Iranian Oil Company to develop the northern section of the field in January 2009 and the southern section in August 2009 (MEED 15:1:09).

The process of transferring ownership began earlier this year. The two companies differ on their expectations from the field, which contains an estimated 33 billion barrels of reserves, with 6 billion barrels recoverable. Nico had hoped to reach 150,000 b/d with phase one in 2008 and 260,000 b/d in phase two by 2012, but progress on the field has been slow.

According to London-based IHS Global Insight, the Chinese energy firm hopes to reach a 75,000-b/d production rate by 2013 and 150,000-b/d output by late-2015, from the North Azadegan project although already the first-phase timeframe is starting to look tight.