South Africa Minister Discusses Oil, LNG Collaboration in Tehran

South Africa was one of the major customers of Iran's crude, taking in 380,000 bpd prior to the tightening of international sanctions
Iran is interested in South Africa's gas-to-liquids (GTL) knowhow to produce fuels such as gasoline or diesel.Iran is interested in South Africa's gas-to-liquids (GTL) knowhow to produce fuels such as gasoline or diesel.

The National Iranian Oil Company is interested in Africa's oil market, especially South Africa, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said after talks with Tina Joemat-Pettersson, South Africa's energy minister, in Tehran on Saturday.

"The negotiations revolved around South African companies' cooperation and investment in Iran's oil, gas and petrochemical sectors as well as providing Pretoria with crude oil," Shana, the Oil Ministry's official news agency reported.

Pointing to the African country's interest to import oil from Iran, Zanganeh noted, "The volume of oil to be purchased is under discussion. We can export as much as 100,000 barrels per day."

South Africa was one of the major customers of Iran's crude, taking in 380,000 barrels per day prior to the tightening of international sanctions in 2011 and 2012.

According to Zanganeh, Iran is now marketing and selling crude oil worldwide without any  restrictions.

Asked about NIOC plans to construct refineries overseas, the minister said, "Embarking on such ventures is not viable now as we are doing our best to attract investment, yet purchasing stakes in foreign refineries to ensure long-term oil exports will be on the agenda in the future with the help of the private sector as well as the National Development Fund of Iran."

Zanganeh added that PetroSA -- the national oil company of South Africa – has state-of-the-art gas-to-liquids (GTL) knowhow, stressing that previous talks did not come to fruition as the two sides could not agree on the price of natural gas.

"Nonetheless, NIOC is willing to launch joint ventures with PetroSA in this field as soon as the differences are settled", he said.

Gas to liquids is a refinery process to convert natural gas or other gaseous hydrocarbons into longer-chain hydrocarbons such as gasoline or diesel fuel. Methane-rich gases are converted into liquid fuels via direct conversion.

"There is no restriction on transferring the technology to Iran where it can be used to help boost liquefied natural gas production as Iran has huge gas reserves," Joemat-Pettersson said, noting that LNG plays a crucial role in South Africa's energy basket. In addition, Pretoria will count on Tehran to provide it crude oil for its new refineries.

  GTL Collaboration

According to Amirhossein Zamaninia, deputy oil minister for international affairs, there is the possibility of cooperation with Royal Dutch Shell Plc to develop GTL infrastructure in Iran.

"Shell is considering investment in Iran's emerging petroleum industry, notably funding and constructing a GTL plant," Zamaninia said, adding that the firm is currently studying the Iranian market and is expected to propose a framework for investment in the petrochemical industry.

According to the US Energy Information Association, five GTL plants were in operation globally by 2014, including two in Malaysia and one in Qatar that were operated by Shell.

Iran plans to develop its petrochemical industry by making better use of its massive hydrocarbon deposits. It sits on an estimated 34 trillion cubic meters of natural gas reserves, or around 18% of the total global reserves.

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