Iran in Oil Talks with India, China on Caspian

A03183825.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Iran’s Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari said Tehran is engaged in talks with Chinese and Indian oil and gas companies to develop energy reserves in the Caspian Sea in northern Iran.

Iran is in talks with the Chinese National Petroleum Company (CNPC) and India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) to develop oil and gas reserves in the Caspian Sea, Nozari told Reuters on Tuesday.

“We have an agreement on some projects but it is not finalized yet,” Nozari said declining to provide more details.

Iran’s oil and gas sector has successfully turned to energy-thirsty Asia for money, expertise and technology to sidestep US sanctions and pressure.

And state-owned Asian energy heavyweights, desperate to lock in long-term future supplies for their fast-growing companies, have increased their role in the world’s fourth-largest oil producer.

China’s biggest oil refiner and petrochemicals producer, had sealed a deal last December to invest $2 billion in Iran’s Yadavaran oilfield.

“You know everything has been finalized and signed, and we have started works,” he said.

Iran, which sits on the world’s second largest reserves of both oil and gas, is facing US sanctions over its civilian nuclear program. Sanctions are increasingly deterring Western investors from running activity in Iran.

Iranian officials have dismissed US sanctions as inefficient, saying that they are finding Asian partners instead. Several Chinese and other Asian firms are negotiating or signing up to oil and gas deals.

Following US pressures on companies to stop business with Tehran, many western companies decided to do a balancing act. They tried to maintain their presence in Iran, which is rich in oil and gas, but not getting into big deals that could endanger their interests in the US.

Yet, after oil giants in the West witnessed that their absence in big deals has provided Chinese, Indian and Russian companies with excellent opportunities to signing up to an increasing number of energy projects and earn billions of dollars, many western firms are slowly losing reluctance to invest or expand work in Iran.

Some European countries have also recently voiced interest in investment in Iran’s energy sector after a gas deal was signed between Iran and Switzerland regardless of US sanctions.

The National Iranian Gas Export Company and Switzerland’s Elektrizitaetsgesellschaft Laufenburg signed a 25-year deal in March for the delivery of 5.5 billion cubic meters of gas per year.

The biggest recent deal, worth €100m ($147m, £80m), was signed by Steiner Prematechnik Gastec, the German engineering company, this month to build equipment for three gas conversion plants in Iran. This is at a time when France’s Total, Royal/Dutch Shell and Norway’s Statoil have put on hold their shares in multi-billion dollar contracts.

Iran which signed a memorandum of understanding with Beijing to store strategic oil in China last year, said that it was looking at setting up similar deals in Africa, as it seeks to position its crude closer to its customers.

“We have defined some countries for the storage of crude…in Africa and Asia,” Nozari said.

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