TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran’s second international gas conference opened in Tehran today.The 2-day gathering, which is said to have some 100 foreign participants, will be addressed by Iran’s oil minister Gholam Hossein Nozari and senior managers of the country’s petroleum industry.
Organizers said that the meeting is aimed at developing Iran’s rich natural gas sector.
The gas export conference is being held at a time when Iran is working on different plans for gas exports and cooperation with different countries, including Pakistan, India, UAE, and a second pipeline line to Turkey.
Tehran is also working on other gas deals, including export to Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Europe, but these projects are yet at preliminary stages.
Iran, which sits on the world’s second largest reserves of both oil and gas, is facing US sanctions over its civilian nuclear program.
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.
Many major international energy firms have voiced interest in attending the conference and their participation has drawn criticism from the US.
French energy company Total and Austrian firm OMV are among the conference’s main Western sponsors.
OMV is Central Europe’s leading oil and gas corporation. It also is partly owned by the Austrian government.
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 â‚¬100m ($147m, Â£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.