Sun Apr 30, 2017 8:46AM
Iran’s Petroleum Minister Bijan Zanganeh.
Iran’s Petroleum Minister Bijan Zanganeh.

Iran’s petroleum minister has hinted that the country is looking into the possibility of bringing in the French energy giant Total to develop a key project to liquefy natural gas for exports to Europe. 

Bijan Zanganeh told reporters that serious talks with Total were underway over the development of Phase 11 of Iran’s South Pars natural gas hub.

Zanganeh added that Iran’s priority for exports of gas to Europe was to proceed with liquefied natural gas (LNG). 

“Our priority is to export natural gas to neighboring states through pipeline.  And we believe that the best way to export gas to Europe is through LNG,” he told reporters after meeting Miguel Arias Canete, the European climate action and energy commissioner, in Tehran.  

Asked whether talks with Total over the development of LNG projects in Iran would continue, Zanganeh emphasized that “Iran would not reject that idea”.  

“Nevertheless, Iran cannot wait for investors indefinitely,” he emphasized. 

Last November, Total signed a basic agreement, worth $4.8 billion to develop South Pars Phase 11 in cooperation with China’s CNPC and Iran’s Petropars. The deal made the French major the first Western company to seal a giant economic deal with the Islamic Republic after the lifting of the sanctions. 

Phase 11 aims to produce 1.8 billion cubic feet a day of gas among other products.

Total has already announced that it would have to wait to see if the US would renew sanctions waivers against Iran in June before proceeding with a final investment decision over the project in South Pars.

In early 2000, the company was negotiating with Iran over production of LNG from the same phase – a project that had been named as Pars LNG at the time. However, the plan was filed in 2011 after Total had to quit Iran as a result of international sanctions that banned investments in Iran’s energy projects.   

The lifting of the sanctions in early 2016 prepared the grounds for the return of international investors to the country. However, major players like Total that have high stakes in the US will still have to wait for Washington to renew waivers on sanctions against investments in Iran.