French oil giant Total, the only western energy major investing in Iran, will lose its stake in the vast South Pars natural gas field (pictured) to its Chinese partner if it withdraws, according to the boss of state-run National Iranian Oil (NOIC).
Total has spent US$90 million developing the offshore field and faces not being compensated before production opens, Ali Kardor, managing director of NIOC, told the media in Tehran. Kardor did not say whether Total would receive any compensation if it pulled out of the project in the Iranian section of the planet’s largest gas deposit. Total was unavailable for comment.
The Paris-based firm signed Iran’s biggest international energy deal since the international community agreed in 2015 to ease economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear programme. Total committed in July to develop phase 11 of the substantial South Pars field, pledging investment of US$1 billion.
Donald Trump has until May 12 to decide whether he will re-impose sanctions, putting pressure on Total because of its US interests.
Total has a 50.1-per-cent stake in the 20-year South Pars project, with the China National Petroleum Corporation holding 30 per cent and Iran’s Petropars with 19.9 per cent. If Total withdrew, Tehran would hand the company’s stake to CNPC, based on the contract, Kardor announced.
Iran has the world’s largest gas reserves, estimated by BP at 33 trillion cubic metres, and is the third-biggest oil producer in Opec, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Total was working at South Pars until sanctions forced it to abandon the field in 2009.
In the North Sea, Total has confirmed plans to axe another 50 Aberdeen jobs after it said in March that it planned to cut 250 staff following its merger with Denmark’s Maersk Oil.
After a review, Total said it would increase that to above 300, adding that it was continuing to discuss ways to reduce the impact of the cuts.
A spokesman said: “Total is making progress with its reorganisation in Aberdeen following the acquisition of Maersk Oil.
“Our initial plans suggested that around 250 positions would need to close, after further review, however, we now propose to increase that number to slightly above 300. We continue consulting with our staff to find ways of mitigating the impact of this reorganisation.”
Total’s €7 billion acquisition of Maersk Oil has consolidated its place as one of the North Sea’s largest operators.
Westhill-based Total UK now has around 1,500 staff in the northeast of Scotland.
Both Total and Maersk employed around 700 people in exploration and production in Aberdeen when the deal was initially announced in August 2017.
Last week Total appointed managing director Jean-Luc Guiziou to oversee the acquisition.
Guiziou said: “[I] look forward to bringing together the Total and Maersk Oil affiliates here in Aberdeen.”
South Pars natural gas field. Picture credit: Wikimedia