Return of French Firms Marks New Chapter

Return of French Firms  Marks New ChapterReturn of French Firms  Marks New Chapter

French multinational oil and gas companies, including Total SA, are eager to return to Iran's energy sector, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said, following a meeting between Iranian senior oil officials and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

Zanganeh said "a new chapter could open" for French oil giant Total to resume activities in Iranian projects, in which the company had been active for more than 20 years.

"Iran and France had cooperated in various fields of energy and French companies have built a positive record in Iran," Amir-Hossein Zamani-Nia, deputy oil minister for international and commercial affairs, was quoted by Shana as saying.

"Total delivered a stellar performance in Iran, notwithstanding the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996."

Total was developing the giant South Pars natural gas project in Iran before sanctions forced Europe’s third-biggest oil company to pull out in 2009.

South Pars, shared between Iran and Qatar, is the world's largest gas field, located in the Persian Gulf.

Iran reached an agreement on July 14 with six world powers (Britain, China, France, Russia and the US plus Germany) to curb the country's nuclear program in return for the lifting of economic sanctions. France had traditionally maintained cordial ties with Iran and its companies are well placed to benefit from warmer relations.

  Petrochem Cooperation

French petrochemical companies have expressed willingness to get involved in Iran's petrochemical sector for optimization of energy consumption, production of liquefied natural gas and manufacture of oil industry equipment.

 "French companies were our long-term partners in the petrochemical industry," Zanganeh said. "French petrochemical companies will have a stronger presence compared with their previous course of action, which mostly involved funding."

Iranian companies plan to cooperate with French firms in manufacturing oil and gas equipment, with French companies responsible for branding and investment.

"The equipment will not only be utilized domestically, but will be exported to regional markets," the oil minister said.

There are currently 67 semi-finished petrochemical projects with a capacity of 60 million tons, the completion of which needs $36 billion in investment.

"Positive negotiations were held in the field of oil and energy, which, we hope, will lead to favorable outcomes," Fabius said at a press conference.

Referring to the two countries' relations, Fabius said the recent round of negotiations was momentous in future economic and political relations.

The French foreign minister arrived in Tehran on Wednesday, the latest in a string of visits by officials from European countries seeking closer economic and political ties with Iran after the nuclear agreement.

Fabius’s trip follows a visit to Tehran on Tuesday by Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief. Last week, the German vice chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, who is also his country’s economy minister, arrived at the head of a business delegation.

French energy officials will soon visit Tehran to discuss terms with Iranian companies and officials, Zamani-Nia said. "The French foreign minister also invited Zanganeh to visit France and negotiate with French companies."

A French economic and trade delegation accompanied by the agriculture minister and deputy foreign ministers are to visit Tehran in September.

Iran plans to hold its major post-sanctions oil and gas conference in London this December, where a senior delegation will discuss new contract terms.