Iran is to start oil and gas exploration drilling in the Caspian Sea by the end of March 2010, it has been announced.

Iranian officials at Khazar Exploration and Production Company (Kepco) told local media that following the inauguration and operation of the Iran-Alborz semi-floating rig, the country can reach a high level of technical knowledge in deep waters.

KEPCO Board of Directors member Mahmoud Zirakchianzadeh said there is a bright prospect of finding reserves of crude oil in the region, reports China’s official news agency Xinhua.

Iran announced earlier this year that that it will use a domestically built semi-floating drilling rig in the Caspian Sea for oil and gas exploration.

The Caspian Sea covers a surface area of 371,000km² and a volume of 78,200km³ in central Asia bordered by Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Iran.