TEHRAN, July 23 (AFP) - The Italian firm ENI is due to sign two gas contracts with Iran shortly totalling 4.3 billion dollars, in one of the largest contracts between Tehran and a western firm since the 1979 Islamic revolution, an Iranian oil official said Sunday.
The contracts call for the development of five zones of a giant gas deposit with a total area of 3,700 square kilometers (1,480 square miles), some 100 kilometers (60 miles) into the Gulf near Qatar.
The contract will be signed Thursday between ENI and both the Iranian government and the Iranian firm Petro-Pars, the oil ministry official said.
The deposit contains about 10 trillion cubic meters (350 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas and is expected to increase Iran's daily gas production by nearly 14 million cubic meters (490 million cubic feet).
The French firm Total, the first oil firm to invest in Iran since 1979, is currently developing two other zones in the South Pars region. The agreement with ENI leaves just one zone outstanding.
Iran in January gave the go-ahead for major work to build a terminal in the Gulf port of Asaluyeh to process natural gas from the Pars field.
The terminal, which will be the largest in the region, is being constructed by Total and the South Korean firm Hyundai.
Iran has the second largest gas reserves in the world after Russia, estimated at 20 trillion cubic metres (700 trillion cubic feet).
The country is also the second biggest oil source in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), producing 3.7 million barrels a day, of which 2.4 million goes to export.
ENI signed a 540-million contract in March 1999 with the French firm Elf for the exploration of the offshore deposits of Dorud in the north of the Gulf. The agreement should raise the site's production from 148,000 to 220,000 barrels a day within four years.
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )