PHOTO: An oil worker makes his way through a refinery south of Tehran (Vahid Salemi/AP)
Even though Iran’s confirmation of the July 14 nuclear deal is still awaited, Tehran is proclaiming that foreign oil companies will soon be returning to the Islamic Republic.
State outlet Press TV put out a series of hopeful articles this weekend, including the announcement that “a delegation from global energy giant Royal Dutch Shell is visiting Iran for talks with the country’s oil officials”.
The Shell group arrived on Friday for four days of meetings with the officials, banks, the Iran-UK Chamber of Commerce, the Tehran Stock Market, and the Industry Ministry.
Shell owes Iran $2.3 billion for crude oil, with payment held up since 2012 by US and European Union sanctions. The company has not been involved in oil and gas production in the Islamic Republic for more than a decade.
Press TV also features an article about a visit by British company BP last month, alongside a high-profile trip by Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.
Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley said the company would be “very much” interested in investing in Iran when sanctions are lifted.
BP holds Iranian revenues from the sale of gas produced at North Sea’s Rhum field, in which the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) has a 50% stake.
And the State outlet heralds a statement by the head of Russia’s Lukoil, Vagit Alekperov, that the producer plans to sign an exploration and production deal once Tehran changes its tax laws.
Alekperov said he will meet Oil Minister Bijan Zangeneh in Vienna in December.
Lukoil reopened its office in Tehran in April, having pulled out of its last project in Iran in 2011.
Foreign investment in Iran’s oil and gas fields slowed after the mass protests over the disputed 2009 Presidential election and the escalation of US and European sanctions. It was effectively halted when Russian companies withdrew and Iran cancelled a multi-billion contract with Chinese firms because of a failure to develop the fields.
Iran oil production and exports have fallen by about 40% since 2012, crippling the economy.
The expectation of a return of the foreign companies is so great that Iranian officials had to pull back from a report that Shell and France’s Total will each open about 100 petrol stations, following objections over the competition.
However, the lifting of sanctions may be checked by the delay in approval of the July 14 nuclear deal with the 5+1 Powers (US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China). Hardliners have insisted on a review of the terms by Parliament, and have even pressed for a formal vote.
The Parliamentary committee carrying out the review now says that its reports should be submitted to the Majlis this week.