BAKU, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Azerbaijan state energy company SOCAR has issued a tender for the joint exploration of two major gas deposits in the Caspian Sea with total preliminary reserves of about 600 billion cubic metres (bcm), SOCAR's first vice-president said.
The tender is for the Umid and Babek gas deposits, Khoshbakht Yusifzade told reporters.
SOCAR said in 2010 it had found at least 200 bcm of gas at the Umid field in the Caspian Sea, describing it as the largest discovery since the giant Shah Deniz deposit that was operated by a consortium of companies led by BP and was estimated to contain 1.2 trillion cubic metres of gas.
SOCAR has produced 390 million cubic metres of gas and 65,000 tonnes of condensate at Umid since 2010, but the company had faced technical problems in the production process, a source at SOCAR said.
"That's why the company decided to announce a tender for joint exploration," the source, who did not want to be named, told Reuters.
The source said average daily production at Umid had fallen to 630,000 cubic metres this year from 638,000 cubic metres in 2013 and 1.5 million cubic metres in 2012.
Babek has estimated reserves of 400 bcm of gas and 80 million tonnes of condensate.
Azerbaijan's total gas reserves are estimated at 3-5 trillion cubic metres. The ex-Soviet republic is being courted by the West for its energy reserves in the Caspian Sea as Europe sees Azeri gas as an alternative to its reliance on Russia.
(Reporting by Nailia Bagirova; Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Susan Thomas)
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