Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zaganeh said on November 19th that U.S. companies have been short listed to develop the next phases of the giant South Pars natural gas field.
Zaganeh said that: “U.S. companies were short listed for the South Pars project at their request. I don’t want to name them.” He added that: “There is a long way between a company being short listed and before it offers a proposal for a project. But these companies tell us they are waiting for the outcome of U.S. elections.”
U.S. sanctions, enacted in 1979, prevent U.S. companies from investing in large energy projects in Iran. After a U.S. presidential order in 1996 barred U.S.-based Conoco Inc. from participating in a $2 billion project in Iran, U.S. companies have eyed investment in the country warily.
Tehran has recently stepped up efforts to increase its oil and gas production capacity by inviting national and international tenders for four phases of the South Pars project.
On November 1st, Iran announced that it had granted priority negotiation rights to the Azadegan field to a group of private Japanese companies, a move that some say is intended to lure in Western oil firms like Conoco and BP Amoco to help develop the lucrative field and to push for a lifting of sanctions, under which U.S. energy firms cannot invest more than $20 million in the country.
The Iranian parliament is to launch an inquiry into all oil contracts signed with foreign firms during the past two decades, according to a conservative newspaper on November 19th.
The parliament will review all “buy-back” deals, under which foreign firms receive a share of production. The deals have drawn much criticism as of late, with foreign companies seen reaping huge profits from high oil prices.