Iran has invited international companies to begin bidding for the country’s vast oil and gas fields for the first time since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal was implemented in January of this year.
Foreign companies will be able to bid for exploration and production of Iran’s oil and gas starting today, according to the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC).
The NIOC has said that it will be giving priority to neighboring countries that share border fields, which include 28 joint offshore and onshore gas and oil reserves.
Since bidding began, Iran has already signed several agreements. The first company to sign is the domestic Iranian organization Persia Oil & Gas Industry Development Co. The US Treasury claims that this company is a subsidiary of Setad Ejraiye Farman-e Emam, or Setad – an organization with strong ties to the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Setad is known for its shadowy dealings within the Islamic Republic. The company provides Ayatollah Khamenei with immense economic strength as it holds significant real estate and corporate investments. One of the leaders of Setad has been wanted by the United States since 2013 on arms smuggling charges.
Iran has also signed agreements with two British companies, including British Petroleum (BP) and Royal Dutch Shell. French Company Total SA has also resumed oil trade with Iran – in 2010 it was forced to stop all oil exploration and production in the country as a result of international sanctions placed on Iran.
International sanctions on Iran were lifted in January under the JCPOA deal, allowing for Iran to expand trade with the international community. The country was slapped with sanctions by the United Nations Security Council and the EU as a result of intelligence that suggested Iran’s nuclear program – which it claimed was for peaceful use – was instead being used for clandestine weapons development. The international community signed an agreement with Iran that prevented the country from producing nuclear weapons in exchange for the dropping of sanctions.
Iran’s oil production exceeds 3.5 million barrels of crude oil per day, compared to approximately 10 million barrels per day produced by Saudi Arabia in 2015. The country hopes to bring more than $150 billion in foreign investment by 2020.
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