Iran's oil minister Rostam Qasemi has announced that huge oil and gas reserves have been discovered on the country's northeastern and western borders with Turkmenistan and Iraq, Mehr News agency reported this week.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Third International Industrial Automation Conference in Tehran on Jan. 22, Qasemi stated that more than 2 billion barrels of oil in place have been discovered since 2012. He said that "huge and considerable" amounts of gas lie in the northeastern Khangiran district of Khorasan Razavi Province, but assessing the exact volume of the reserves is impossible before further seismic studies have been conducted and new wells have been drilled. Under the present circumstances, development of exploratory and mining activities at the border areas is a top priority for the Iranian oil industry and explorations are still underway, he added.

Qasemi pointed out that joint commissions between Iran and Iraq could be set up in light of the discovery of shared reserves. Negotiations with Iraq will definitely be held, he asserted. It is possible that natural gas reserves will also be discovered in the newly found oil field on the Iran-Iraq border, the oil minister predicted.

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Last month Iran's deputy oil minister, Mohsen Khojasteh-Mehr, said the country's proven reserves of crude oil and natural gas are estimated at about $37 trillion. This includes about 100 billion barrels of crude oil, 94 billion barrels of condensate and 207 billion barrels equivalent of natural gas, he announced. At present, Iran has the third-largest oil reserves worldwide and occupies the second position in terms of natural gas, with reserves of 34 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, coming second only to Russia. Khojasteh-Mehr stated that the new fields will be enough to enable Iran to produce significant amounts of oil for the next 140 years even provided that no new discoveries are made.

Meanwhile, the managing director of the Central Oilfields Company, Mehdi Fakour, confirmed that a large natural gas reserve had been discovered in northeastern Iran, with details about the reserve due to be released by the National Iranian Oil Company. He explained that the exploration of the field is likely to continue until September this year.

Annual statistics provided by BP show that Iran's gas production in 2011 reached 153.3 billion cubic meters, or 420 million cubic meters per day, not factoring in flared and recycled gas. Consumption volume was 151.8 billion cubic meters in 2011, indicating a 1.5 billion cubic meters negative balance. The country's daily gas production is expected to reach 1.4 billion cubic meters by 2015. However, according to data from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' monthly report for January, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia all saw their crude oil production decline.

Iran's energy sector has felt the adverse effect of international sanctions imposed in response to the country's controversial nuclear program. Still, Tehran has managed to find a market for its production overseas, as OPEC reported that Iranian crude oil accounted for about seven percent of Chinese imports.