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Zanganeh Invites China Private Investors

Iran’s biggest oil and gas projects need foreign funding to move forward.Iran’s biggest oil and gas projects need foreign funding to move forward.

Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh called on China's private sector on Tuesday to invest in Iran's oil industry.

He made the statement in a meeting with a Chinese delegation headed by Wang Yanguo, vice chairman and secretary-general of China International Chamber of Commerce for the Private Sector, in Tehran on Tuesday, IRNA reported.

"Iran and China have close and broad-ranging ties, especially in the energy sector," Zanganeh said, hoping that the meeting would help attract Chinese private investors to Iran.

The plea came on the heels of a parliamentary hearing in which the minister said Iran's biggest oil and gas projects need foreign funding to move forward.

Sanctions imposed over Tehran's nuclear dispute at the turn of the decade forced a U-turn on western energy companies and provided the Chinese with a windfall opportunity to assume a bigger role in Iran's oil and gas ventures.

During the sanctions, Iran was deprived of cash and know-how to develop its oil sector. The country slipped from the ranks of OPEC's top producers while crude exports were limited to a handful of Asian buyers, including China.

Wang said Iran, as China's "old friend with rich oil and gas resources", can help the East Asian nation meet its energy requirements.

"Private Chinese investors can collaborate in different investment areas, including petrochemical and oil," he added.

China's presence in Iran's energy market, largely led by state companies with stronger financial and operational muscle, has not been particularly outstanding.

China National Petroleum Corporation, was handed the first development phase of North and South Azadegan oilfields. It was booted out of South Azadegan in 2014 after repeated delays in fulfilling its contractual obligations, although it has reportedly fared better in the North project.

CNPC is part of a consortium, led by French energy major Total, to develop an offshore project in Iran's South Pars Gas Field in the Persian Gulf. It holds a 30% stake in the project alongside Iran's Petropars with 19.9 % as minority shareholders.

Sinopec also developed the first phase of Yadavaran Oilfield during the sanctions. The Beijing-based firm is committed to expanding Abadan Oil Refinery, Iran's oldest crude processing facility, in an investment worth around $3 billion.

China has continued to ship the bulk of Iran's crude exports since sanctions were eased in Jan. 2016. It bought 685,150 barrels a day from Iran in October, down 11.5% from the same time last year, but still more than India (467,600 bpd), Japan (165,535 bpd) and South Korea (426,710 bpd). China's Iranian crude imports between January and October were close to 635,000 barrels daily.

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