France's Total Signs Crude Import Deal

France's Total Signs Crude Import DealFrance's Total Signs Crude Import Deal

Iran signed a deal to export crude oil to French oil and gas major Total on Thursday, as the two countries turned the page for a new era of economic and diplomatic relations.

Total will import 150,000 to 200,000 barrels of oil per day from the Persian Gulf country under a new deal that will make the French giant the second in Europe after Hellenic Petroleum, Greece's biggest refiner, to sign an oil deal with Iran in the post-sanctions period.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani and his French counterpart Francois Hollande oversaw the signing of the deal in a meeting between the officials of two countries at the French presidential palace, Shana reported.

The French company said it wants Iran's crude "for the French and European refineries". Total will also study Iran's oil industry to assess potential projects.

"Total has been very present in Iran, very loyal to Iran. We have obviously envisaged other projects but they need to be discussed," Total's chief executive, Patrick Pouyanne, said before signing the deal.

Rouhani called on both sides to put behind past resentments and take advantage of the "positive atmosphere" for boosting ties in the post-sanctions era.

Iran has pledged to ramp up oil production by 1 million barrels per day by mid-2016, as it plans to regain the lost ground in the global oil market.

Meanwhile, Japan will also increase oil imports of 110,000 bpd from Iran when its contract with the Persian Gulf country runs out in April.

The US and the European Union officially lifted some trade and financial sanctions against Iran that targeted its nuclear program on Jan. 16, paving the way for Iran to the global community.

*** Total Reentry

Speculations mounted on Total's reentry after Tehran and six world powers reached a monumental agreement in July on placing time-bound limits on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

In October, Iranian media claimed Total was given the green light to build gas stations in Iran under its own brand name, a premise that was swiftly denied by officials.

But the French major has kept tabs on the Iranian energy market, as it has sent delegations to Tehran on several occasions in recent months.

Total was active in developing Iranian energy projects for more than 20 years, including the development of several South Pars phases. But it ceased operations in 2010 following disagreements over contract terms and pressure from the French and US governments over oil and trade embargos against Tehran.

Rouhani, heading a 120-strong delegation of state officials and businessmen, rounded off his first European tour after the removal of sanctions on Thursday as Iran sealed major economic and energy deals with Italian and French corporations.

Tehran and Rome signed around $18 billion worth of agreements, including multibillion-dollar deals with major Italian oil and gas corporations.

An agreement valued $4 billion to $5 billion was reached with Italian major Eni to lay 2,000 kilometers of pipeline in Iran. Gas contractor Saipem also signed a memorandum of understanding on potential cooperation in revamping and upgrading Iran's Pars Shiraz and Tabriz oil refineries.

In addition, National Iranian South Oil Company is engaged in talks with Italy's SSE to explore the country's southern oil and gas fields.

Japan will increase oil imports from Iran when its contract with the Persian Gulf country runs out in April, as Japanese tankers are making their way into the Persian Gulf to ship Iranian crude back home.

The country's intake of Iranian crude currently stands at 110,000 barrels per day, but the volume is poised to rise when the two sides sign a new contract in April, Shana said on Saturday without giving details.