Weekly actual topics in Azerbaijan (Aug. 20 - 24)

Toll roads to be considered in Azerbaijan

A consultant is being involved in Azerbaijan to investigate the opportunity of introducing toll roads in Azerbaijan within the Asian Development Bank's program (ADB) to develop the road network in the country, ADB office in Baku said.

"The tender process is in the final stages," the office said. "Perhaps, a consultant will be determined in September. We attach great importance to this issue, because the consultant will study the existing legislation, prepare recommendations. Therefore, a candidate is being chosen very carefully."

A contest was announced in September 2011 to attract consulting services. It was planned to be closed till October 26. In this case, it was planned to begin working no later than January 2012 and to complete by June 2012.

Legislation must be studied to determine opportunities for introducing toll roads in Baku and beyond.

The research was laid within the first tranche worth $ 200 million allocated from the multitranche package for road projects by ADB for the reconstruction of Masalli-Astara highway in late 2007.

According to "Azeryolservis" company under the Azerbaijani Transport Ministry, a consultant must examine the roads, traffic, road surface and determine needs to improve the roads for the next 10-year period.

A consultant must assess the road network, depending on the traffic, its economic importance in the region.

A consultant must determine roads that are important from an economic point of view, and prepare a schedule of registration in a numerical order. A consultant must pay special attention to the calculation of income to be derived from toll roads, and for the projects, based on the cooperation of the public-private sector. The roads with a high rate of return must be taken into account.

According to the terms of the tender announced by "Azeryolservis", firms can act in the form of association to increase the qualifying indices.

Iran absorbed $30 billion to oil industry last year

Some $30 billion was invested last year in Iran's oil industry despite global sanctions, an official with the Oil Ministry stated.

Mohsen Khojasteh-Mehr told the Fars News Agency that the oil industry faced sanctions last year which led to a reduction in foreign investments. "However, we managed to absorb some $30 billion to the oil projects," he noted.

Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi said in April that at least $30 billion will be invested in the domestic oil industry this year.

He added that a major portion of the sum will be allocated to the South Pars gas field projects.

The South Pars gas field is shared by Iran and Qatar. The Iranian share which is divided into 29 phases has about 14 trillion cubic meters of gas, or about eight per cent of the total world reserves and more than 18 billion barrels of liquefied natural gas resources.

Qasemi also said that the global economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic would not hinder the country's oil industry development.

The oil ministry is committed to accelerating the implementation of its development plans financed through the financial system and through government bonds, he said.

Iran sits on the world's second largest natural gas reserves after Russia.

National Iranian Oil Company's managing director Ahmad Qalebani has said that according to the Fifth Five-Year Development Plan (2010-2015), some $30 billion should be invested in the oil and gas industries each year.

Iraq intends to take legal measures against Total

Iraq intends to take legal measures against the French company Total, which has signed an agreement with the Kurdish autonomy, a source in the Iraqi government said.

The source noted that Iraq intends to force Total to sell its 25 per cent stake in the al-Halfa field in the south.

"Iraq has already begun the necessary legal action against Total. The company will be required to sell its stake in the field al-Halfa," the source said.

It was announced earlier that the company has signed an agreement with the Total Kurdish autonomy of Iraq on acquisition of a 25 per cent stake in the Taza field, a block which is located in the region of Sulaimaniya in northern Iraq. Total paid $48 million to the Canadian company ShaMaran Petroleum, engaged in the development of oil and gas projects in Kurdistan.

Iraq's oil ministry said a consortium led by the French Total which also includes China Petro Chine and Malaysia's Petronas, began production at Iraq's biggest oil field Al Halfa in the south on June 28.

According to BP, Iraq's proven oil reserves amounted to 143.1 billion barrels as of late 2011.

The country ranks third in OPEC after Saudi Arabia and Iran. According to BP, oil production in Iraq amounted to 2.798 million barrels per day in late 2011.

The major oil fields of Iraq are Rumaila, Zubair, Nahr Umr, Majnoon and West Qurna in the south of the country. About 80 per cent of oil extracted in Iraq, is exported.

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