US Firms On The Defensive Over South Pars Involvement
There is growing controversy over the inclusion of US companies among buyers of data as part of the tendering process for projects to develop South Pars gasfield Phases 9 and 10 and Phases 11 and 12 which, respectively, are earmarked to supply gas to Iran’s domestic grid and a proposed LNG export scheme at Assaluyeh.
MEES understands that of 23 bidding groups which have bought data under the tender, seven contain US firms.
Press reports have identified Chevron as one of the companies buying data and the company has found itself having to defend its actions (MEES, 20 November).
A Chevron official told MEES that the company is certain it acted within the constraints of US sanctions against Iran when it purchased data packages for the South Pars Phases 9-12 developments, which the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) opened to tender in late August (MEES, 4 September).
“We purchased for internal study two data packages, containing existing and current field information relevant to Phases 9 and 10 and Phases 11 and 12 of the South Pars field development,” the official said. “US sanctions would not allow us to submit at this time any sort of bid to develop these projects.”
NIOC officials have declined to name the other US participants, at their request, and MEES soundings among international companies have met with a reluctance to name names, although one source said of US companies among the South Pars 9-12 data purchasers, “it’s more a question of who isn’t on the list.”
MEES understands that the legal departments of US companies may be advising that, provided a US company makes very clear that it has no intention of bidding for a project, it would be within its rights under current US legislation to purchase data packages which are available ‘off-the-shelf’ to all parties.
Nevertheless, US companies risk investigation by the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) over any dealings with Iran.
Conoco’s study of seismic data from Iran’s Azadegan field is thought to be still under investigation by OFAC, despite Conoco’s assurance that NIOC had offered only to share data since the US firm was viewed as a potential developer of Azadegan field once US sanctions are lifted (MEES, 25 September).
Subsequently OFAC sent a list of questions to Conoco, which the oil firm answered, and Conoco is awaiting OFAC’s response.