In a remote corner of Iran, engineers are working round the clock to return the country to the top ranks of global oil producers.
The region of Southwest Iran boasts more proven reserves of oil than Africa’s largest producer, Nigeria, and its 60 billion barrels are central to Iran’s ambitions.
Drilling is nearly complete in the biggest of the region’s five fields, called South Azadegan. But it’s been an uphill struggle, thanks to years of Western sanctions.
CNN was the first foreign TV crew allowed into Iran’s largest oil find in 30 years, in the marshlands of what was a battleground in the 1980s war with Iraq.
Iran’s oil industry has had to get creative to survive years of isolation — the equipment is old, rusty and in some cases improvised. On one platform, the National Iranian Oil Company is using a Chinese built rig but with American technology at the core purchased before sanctions took hold.
Mahmood Marashi, a project manager educated in America, cannot wait for the day Western-led sanctions are removed, and Iran can re-enter the global market.
“We hope that after the sanctions are lifted we can move faster,” Marashi told CNN. “Of course the quality is very important,” he said, in reference to the tools he is now forced to use.