Tehran, Beijing Sign Oil, Gas MoU

Tehran, Beijing Sign Oil, Gas MoU
Tehran, Beijing Sign Oil, Gas MoU

Iran and China have signed a memorandum of understanding on Sunday on long-term cooperation in the oil and gas sector.

The agreement was signed by Amirhossein Zamaninia, deputy oil minister for international and commercial affairs, and Zhang Yuqing, deputy director of China's National Energy Administration, which is a regulatory body for energy and industry sectors.

According to Zamaninia, the agreement calls for increasing the extraction of oil and condensates by Chinese operators. It was scheduled to be signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Tehran in January, but was put on hold because the two sides failed to finalize the agreement on time.

Zamaninia noted that Iran supplied 11% of China's total crude imports in 2011, before the US and the EU slammed tougher sanctions against the Persian Gulf state, and the volume of oil exports will hopefully rise following the long-term agreements.

China, the world's second-largest oil consumer, has been one of the most important customers of Iranian crude before and during the sanctions. Alongside India, Japan, South Korea, Turkey and Taiwan, China imported Iranian crude when sanctions were in place.

Its imports averaged 540,000 barrels of oil per day from Iran last year, while imports in April stood at 2.91 million tons, or 707,400 barrels per day, up 10.8% from March and the highest since last May.

  Plan for Partnership

"Iran is open to partner with reliable Chinese companies under a competitive atmosphere to develop its crude oil and natural gas fields," Zamaninia said on the sidelines of the meeting.

"China is a strategic partner for Iran and we look forward to expanding ties with the country," he added, underscoring the two nations' friendly relations over the years.

Zhang also said Chinese refineries purchase nearly half of Iran's total crude exports, adding that Chinese firms provide oil equipment at a reasonable price and quality.

Zamaninia added that China always stood by Iran in negotiations with six world powers on its nuclear program and said Tehran-Beijing ties are in their "best form".

"China has contributed to the development of Iran's oil industry … We hope bilateral cooperation expands exponentially in the oil, gas, refining and petrochemical sectors."

The Chinese are eager to continue operations in Iran's hydrocarbon fields. Sanctions largely cut off Iran's relations with world and forced many international contractors off Iran's energy projects.

The void allowed Chinese contractors to play a bigger role in Iran's oil and gas projects. However, oil and gas cooperation with China proved to be a bumpy ride as Chinese contractors sporadically defaulted on delivering on their contractual commitments during sanctions.