(EnergyAsia, April 27, Friday) — California, US-based Ivanhoe Energy Inc said it and Inpex Corp, Japan’s largest oil and gas exploration and production company, have agreed to jointly develop a heavy crude oil field in Iraq that Ivanhoe Energy believes is a suitable candidate for its patented HTLª heavy oil upgrading technology.


In late 2004, Ivanhoe Energy signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Iraqi Ministry of Oil to evaluate a specific, large heavy oil field and its commercial development potential using the HTLª technology.


Since then Ivanhoe Energy said it has carried out a detailed analysis and has generated data regarding the applicability of its upgrading technology for the development of the field.


The Iraqi Ministry of Oil has given the approval for Inpex Corp’s participation.


The agreement between Inpex and Ivanhoe Energy provides the Japanese with a significant interest in the venture, with Ivanhoe Energy retaining a majority interest. Inpex will have to make an unspecified payment to Ivanhoe Energy for its past field studies and research costs.


If the partners proceed with the development and deploy Ivanhoe Energy’s HTLª technology, certain technology fees would be payable to Ivanhoe Energy.


“We are pleased to be involved in the pursuit of this opportunity,” said Kunihiko Matsuo, Inpex’s chairman. “Additionally, we are interested in supporting the development of Ivanhoe Energy’s HTLª technology, which is expected to have the potential to improve the economics of heavy oil production the world over.”


Joe Gasca, Ivanhoe Energy’s President and CEO, said: “Our HTLª technology is the foundation for this partnership with Inpex Corp. This agreement is a significant milestone for Ivanhoe Energy as we establish the relationships to build a strong and sustainable heavy oil business based on our unique technology.”


Inpex Corp, Japan’s main state oil and gas development company, is engaged in exploration and production activities in Asia, South America, the Middle East and the Caspian Sea regions.