Foreign Firms Tour Asalouyeh

Energy Desk
Foreign Firms Tour Asalouyeh
Foreign Firms Tour Asalouyeh

Representatives of some of the world's biggest engineering, construction, petrochemical and shipping companies had a firsthand glimpse of Iran's petrochemical facilities and infrastructure during a one-day visit to the city of Asalouyeh in the southern Bushehr Province on Tuesday.

The foreign delegates were a select group of high-ranking executives who attended the 12th Iran Petrochemical Forum in Tehran last week.

The Persian Gulf nation has opened doors to international investors after it reached an agreement with six world powers (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany) in July to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

The international forum on Sunday, followed by Tuesday's visit to Asalouyeh, is part of efforts to boost economic and energy cooperation with the world, with petrochemical projects prepared to attract billions of dollars in foreign direct investment in the Iranian energy sector.

Underlined as the driving force behind the country's petrochemical growth over the past few years, Asalouyeh is expected to play a pivotal role in realizing Iran's post-sanctions economic ambitions.

Some of the foreign executives told Financial Tribune on Tuesday that they are awaiting the removal of sanctions to stake a claim in Iran's petrochemical industry, expressing confidence that it is only a matter of time before agreements are reached and deals are signed.

  Prudent and Positive

Amit Chaturvedi, senior vice president of India's Reliance Industries Limited, told Financial Tribune that Iran is "an exciting hydrocarbon-based market and a big source of chemicals", although the energy and petrochemical conglomerate has no immediate plans to make investment.

On the interest of Indian firms to carry out projects in Iran, he said, "It is too early to say, but it [Iran] has a lot of interesting opportunities for India, especially in the field of fertilizers and urea."

Chaturvedi noted that "the whole world is waiting" for the removal of sanctions against Tehran to rekindle ties.

China Petrochemical Development Corp.–a Taiwan-based producer of ammonia and methanol, among other petrochemical giants—is also weighing up the business environment in Iran.

On his second trip to the Persian Gulf country, the CPDC acting president, Yeh Wen-Shyan, said, "We are exploring possibilities to set up a plant here … We can start from the upstream [oil industry] and expand business in downstream [petrochemical] projects."

An official of the Air Liquide Global E&C Solutions, who did not mention his name, said the French company is looking forward to sign an agreement to transfer technology to Iranian contractors "as soon as the sanctions are lifted".

The French company is a technology provider for the design, engineering and construction of processing facilities. Its parent company Air Liquide is the world's second largest supplier of industrial gases by revenue and operates in more 80 countries.

  Shipping Deals

Eletson Gas Maritime Ltd, a leading global operator of LPG and petrochemical tankers headquartered in Piraeus, Greece, expressed willingness to resume trade ties with Tehran.

"Previously, we moved some [Iranian] products on tankers … We have new ships that would fit in here nicely," said Donald McMillan, the company's senior marketing manager. "Iran is a big marketplace and we want to be part of it."

The Greek-based firm was forced to cut ties with Iran after the US and the EU introduced tougher sanctions in 2010 to cease the country's nuclear program.

According to unofficial reports, some Iranian and foreign tankers have been renamed and reflagged over the past few years to evade sanctions and continue to supply Iranian petroleum products, but McMillan strongly denied such a notion about Eletson.

"Eletson is an EU-based company that was not allowed to do business with Iran," he said. According to the company's website, all of its vessels sail under the Greek flag.

"Until the sanctions are actually lifted, we are not allowed to negotiate," he added, speculating that the company will sign a new contract sometime next year.