Japan's Inpex Corp. is in the running to develop a major oil field in Iran, Kyodo News network reported on Jan. 4, as Tehran looks to aggressively ramp up crude output following the lifting of sanctions.

Japan's top energy developer is a strong candidate for the project after signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to look into developing the Azadegan oil field, Kyodo said, citing Noreddin Shahnazizadeh, managing director of Iran's Petroleum Engineering and Development Co.

Kyodo reported that a tender would be held around the first quarter of 2017.

An Inpex spokesman declined to comment on the report, which also said that France's Total, Royal Dutch Shell Plc (NYSE: RDS.A), Malaysia's Petronas and China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) had signed similar MOUs.

Inpex in 2010 was forced to give up a stake in the Azadegan oil field due to Western sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

Iran has named 29 international companies as being allowed to bid for oil and gas projects using the new, less restrictive Iran Petroleum Contract model, including five Japanese firms--Inpex, Itochu Corp., Japan Petroleum Exploration (Japex), Mitsubishi Corp. and Mitsui.