Iran will soon offer foreign companies the opportunity to explore for oil and gas in the Persian Gulf and the Oman Sea, according to local media reports.

The reports said Iran and foreign companies have carried out joint seismic surveys, with more to follow to determine the extent of reserves in new areas.

Mehdi Mirmoezi, the deputy petroleum minister and president of National Iranian Oil Co (NIOC), was quoted as saying that foreign companies will have a role in helping Iran develop its oil and gas reserves to meet rising world demand for energy.

Iran, OPEC’s second largest oil producer, has gas reserves estimated to be over 26 trillion cubic metres (tcm), or about 15.8% of world reserves. Oil remains the main source of its foreign exchange earnings (85%) and meets 98% of its domestic energy needs.

The bulk of Iran’s gas reserves lies in the South Pars field, the world’s largest gas field. Some of South Pars’ 14 small fields have been awarded to investors, with the rest expected to be put on tender soon.

Iran badly needs foreign investments to develop its energy resources as it has been deprived of funds by US economic sanctions.