Tue, Oct 08, 2019 - Page 10 News List

Chinese state firm quits Iran’s natural gas project


Natural gas refineries at the South Pars gas field on the northern coast of the Persian Gulf in Asaluyeh, Iran, are pictured on March 16.

Photo: AP

China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC, 中國石油天然氣) is no longer a partner in Iran’s biggest natural gas project, and the Persian Gulf nation will develop Phase 11 of the giant South Pars field on its own, Iranian Minister of Oil Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said.

CNPC was the only international partner left in the project, after Total SA of France withdrew last year when US President Donald Trump abandoned the 2015 nuclear accord and reimposed sanctions on Iran.

Phase 11 was the biggest infrastructure development project with major foreign participants that Tehran arranged after the accord took effect.

The Chinese company was “dismissed” from the project, Zanganeh said, according to the ministry’s Shana news service in a report that gave no explanation for the dismissal.

Iran’s Petropars Ltd would take over CNPC’s stake and be sole participant in Phase 11, he said.

A CNPC spokesman in Beijing did not immediately reply to phone calls and a text message request for comment yesterday, a national holiday in China.

Iran had awarded Total, CNPC and Petropars a contract in July 2017 to develop Phase 11 of South Pars, its part of the world’s largest offshore gas field.

Total, which initially held a 50.1 percent stake, pulled out in August last year. CNPC had a 30 percent share in the project, while Petropars held 19.9 percent.

“We had intended to attract foreign capital for developing the project,” Zanganeh said. “Petropars was supposed to learn from other companies in the consortium.”

International energy companies have been reluctant to work in Iran since the US reimposed curbs on the country, due to their concerns that Washington might blacklist them for engaging with the Islamic Republic.

China remains one of the biggest buyers of Iran crude oil, in spite of US sanctions.

Phase 11 would produce 14.16 million cubic meters a day of gas by March next year, Zanganeh said on Sunday, suggesting that the project is ahead of schedule.

It was due to start up in 2021, according to a statement Total issued when it was awarded the development contract.

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