The fate of Iran’s energy development plans under US pressure

Tehran, Iran, November 18

By Mehdi Sepahvand – Trend:

A recent expression of doubt by Patrick Pouyanné, the chief executive officer of France’s energy giant Total, whether to carry out cooperation with Iran has strengthened worries over the fate of Iran’s energy development projects.

 

Omid Shokri, a Washington-based energy analyst, told Trend November 18 that “Total or any other oil and gas company is interested to have good relations with US,” adding, it is possible for Total to withdraw from South Pars field.

 

Total’s chief executive officer last week said under political pressure, his company is liable to leave the $4.8 billion deal with Iran. “If we cannot do that for legal reasons, because of [a] change of [the] regime of sanctions, then we have to revisit it,” he said.

 

Total last week increased its US presence with the purchase of a portfolio of liquefied natural gas assets from Engie (ENGIY), including the company’s stake in the Cameron LNG project in Louisiana, one of the first new gas export terminals in North America.

 

Sealed a few months ago, the deal with Total over the development of South Pars gas field used to be vied by Iran as an icebreaker and itself a discouragement for new sanctions on Iran.

However, last month US President Donald Trump unveiled a tough and comprehensive new policy towards Iran. He accused Tehran of violating the 2015 nuclear accord (which had paved the way for removal of sanctions) and announced that he would no longer certify that the lifting of sanctions was in US interests.

 

Shokri believes that major to-be partners of Iran’s oil and gas companies are waiting for US Congress decision about Iran and nuclear agreement.

 

This is while Iran used to cherish the nuclear deal as a means to open way for the development of its oil and gas industries, which had been kept outdated by years-long sanctions.

Iran’s economy is heavily oil-dependent. In the early 2010s, sanctions efficiently stifled the country’s oil revenues as its exports dropped from 2.3 mbpd to 1 mbpd.

 

Iran’s oil, gas, and petrochemical infrastructure are not by far as efficient as they could. Many of the country’s oil fields are in the second half of their lives and need restoration or else they lose profitability.

https://en.trend.az/business/economy/2823946.html

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What connects Turkey and Iran? – A look from Washington – EXCLUSIVE

Omid Shokri Kaleshar

Senior Energy Security Analyst, Washington, specifically for Eurasia Diary

Yesterday Turkish President Recep Erdogan negotiated on the regional crisis with the Iranian President Hassan Ruhani and, in particular, a referendum on Syria and Iraq with Iranian officials. Turkey suffered more from the Syrian crisis and presented about 3 million Syrian refugees living there. By October 2017, Turkey donated about $ 30 million to Syrian refugees. Iran and Turkey together with Russia have the potential to solve the Syrian problem, but they also need to cooperate with the US on this issue.

The Iranian and Iraqi forces conducted trainings near the border with the autonomous region of Kurdistan in Iraq, especially after tension raised after the referendum on independence. Last week, the head of the Turkish military headquarters, General Hulusi Akar, visited Tehran for talks with the leading military and political figures of Iran, who are expected to deal with border security and the fight against terrorism, along with regional problems.

 

Turkey and Iran agreed to strengthen military ties after referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan, where more than 90% of population voted for independence. Iran with Iraq and Turkey can expand military cooperation and conduct military exercises near the borders of Iraq in order to effectively counter regional instability.

There is a Kurdish minority lives in both of countries and they want to create a Kurdish state that directly affects national security, and it is expected that they will apply the same policy in this matter. Energy-intensive Turkey imports large volumes of natural gas from Iran. Both countries are seeking to enhance banking and trade ties in order to triple bilateral trade to $ 30 billion a year in the coming years after the lifting of international sanctions against Tehran.

The preferential trade agreement between Turkey and Iran turned out to be a huge disappointment during the first two years, when bilateral trade lagged behind the $ 35 billion target that the deal was supposed to reach. The agreement, which entered into force on January 1, 2015, aimed at reducing tariffs for about 300 products in order to triple the volume of trade. The results, however, were far from ideal, not even reaching one-third of the goal. While the Iranian market caused the appetite of the world’s trading giants, Turkey showed itself in a very favorable position, being the closest neighbor with already existing tariffs. Nevertheless, there were many disappointments. Despite the lifting of sanctions, Turkish-Iranian trade in 2016 was 100 million fewer than in the previous year, which meant the collapse of the preferential trade deal in just two years.

 

Starting from the first year, the deal resulted in an unexpected result: instead of growth, the volume of trade between the two neighbors declined. Turkish-Iranian trade amounted to 9.76 billion dollars at the end of 2015 dollars. Not only at 25 billion dollars smaller than the target, but also by $ 4 billion below the level of 2014 in the amount of 13.7 billion dollars. In 2016, Turkey’s exports to Iran amounted to 4.97 billion dollars. compared with 3.66 billion dollars. in the previous year, while imports from Iran, including natural gas, amounted to 4.7 billion dollars., compared with 6.1 billion dollars. in 2015.

Turkey had a positive balance of trade with Iran for the first time in 16 years. Even if this is a small surplus (only about $ 270 million), the fact that the balance is changing in favor of Turkey is a noteworthy development, the result of a steady trend over the past four years. Considering the instability in Iraq and the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan, Iran has the potential to supply oil and gas to Turkey.

Iran and Turkey should prepare a joint plan, which take into account their national interests regard to the regional crisis, especially in Iraq and Syria. Instability in the region does not benefit the regional states, and it should be noted that both countries are neighbors. The regional crisis requires regional cooperation, and also with the main actors in the region, no country in itself has the capacity to address the regional crisis.

In summary, Iran and Turkey have their own interests in the region, and in some circumstances there is a clash of interests, but by 2017, after the Syrian crisis and after the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan, both countries, cooperating with Iraq on the issue of Iraqi Kurdistan, and with Russia, and with the United States in the Syrian crisis, should play a more active role. Instability and chaos in these regions directly affect the stability and security of Iran and Turkey. Regional cooperation and large entities in the region are needed to solve the regional crisis.

http://ednews.net/en/news/interview/196428-what-connects-turkey-and-iran

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india

U.S. Sanctions Threaten India’s Importation of Iranian Oil

Washington has said that to achieve significant reductions in Iranian oil exports it needs India to observe the sanctions.

 

by Rauf Mammadov Follow @RaufNMammadov and   Omid Shokri Kalehsar Follow @ushukrik

When the United States pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in May, it told countries trading with Iran that they would have to stop soon or face American sanctions.

As the first ninety-day wind-down period for ceasing trading with Iran comes to an end, Washington is ratcheting up the pressure on the main importers of Iranian crude oil.

However, most of the other countries that signed the nuclear deal —including many in Europe—continue to support it. But companies, not governments, import oil—and they are likely to buckle under the U.S. pressure.

A key exception is Chinese companies, which collectively amount to the world’s largest buyer of Iranian oil. They remain defiant against the U.S. sanctions threat, a stance which their government obviously supports. The defiance comes as tension with America already increasing due to a trade war that Washington started.

 

The European Union is also embroiled in a trade war with the United States. This is increasing the pressure on European companies to comply with Washington’s no-trade-with-Iran order. Most have said they will comply with it.

Another important player in the Iran sanctions game is India. In fact, the United States has said that to achieve significant reductions in Iranian oil exports it needs India to observe the sanctions.

Iran’s geographical proximity to India, coupled with India’s growing demand for petroleum, made an oil trading partnership between the two almost inevitable.

In 2017, India imported almost 40 percent of its oil from Iran, making it the second-largest importer of Iranian crude, behind China. India bought $13 billion worth of petroleum products from Iran that year, with crude accounting for the vast majority

The energy cooperation between Tehran and Delhi has not been limited to oil and gas trading, however.

After the Iran nuclear deal was signed in the summer of 2015, India began making major investments in Iran’s oil industry, including building petrochemical and fertilizer plants.

India has also wanted to invest in the Farzad B gas field. An Indian consortium led by the state-owned Oil and Gas Corporation discovered the field in 2012, and it began producing in 2013. A dispute over the terms of India’s participation in the field’s production has prevented a deal from being reached, however.

Meanwhile, Iran’s plan to build a gas pipeline through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India has been stalled due to disagreements over the terms of the deal.

Furthermore, after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited India in February, the countries expressed optimism that their trade would double.

Two events undermined that optimism, however. One was the United States increasing its threats to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal —which it ended up making good on in May. The other was Saudi Arabia, Iran’s main political rival in the Middle East, stepping up its energy diplomacy toward India.

In April, Saudi Aramco signed a deal with a consortium of Indian companies led by the state-owned Indian Oil Corporation to take a 50 percent stake in a $44 billion mega-refinery and petrochemicals complex that will be built in the port city of Ratnagiri. The Saudis calculated that helping India create one of the world’s largest refining and petrochemical complexes would not only help tilt it away from Iran but also guarantee long-term Saudi crude sales to India

Meanwhile, the United States has been increasing its diplomacy toward India, with the key goal of persuading India to embrace sanctions against Iran.

 

In addition, America’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who is of Indian descent, visited New Delhi last month to ask that India reduce its Iranian oil imports.

 

A U.S. Treasury Department delegation followed. It was led by Marshall Billingslea, the department’s assistant secretary for anti-terrorism financing. Given Billingslea’s background, one topic was likely to be a scheme that Iran and India used to avoid previous U.S. sanctions against Iran.

The two visits are already yielding results for Washington.

 

Indian refineries have begun canceling oil import contracts with Iran. Hindustan Petroleum, which owns India’s third-largest refinery, canceled an Iranian oil shipment in July when its insurance company refused to cover the sale because of impending U.S. sanctions.

In addition, news surfaced that Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries , which owns the largest refining complex in the world, also planned to halt Iranian oil imports.

Fearing aggressive Trump administration policies towards Iran, India is also expected to scrap the rupee-based trade agreement it concluded with Iran three years ago, Iranian sources say.

India had used the rupee-rial arrangement to buy Iranian oil before U.S. sanctions were lifted against Iran in 2016. The two sides used Turkey’s Halk Bank as an intermediary in their trading.

 

In May, a federal judge in New York sentenced a top Halk Bank executive to three years in prison for designing and carrying out the scheme. U.S. prosecutors had contended that the deal was used to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran that the Obama administration imposed before the nuclear deal.

Before he became assistant Treasury secretary for anti-terrorism financing, Billingslea was managing director of business intelligence services for Deloitte, where he focused on illicit finance. In the wake of the prison sentence against the Halk Bank executive for the rupee-rial scheme, it was significant that after Billingslea left India, his next destination was Turkey .

 

India did obtain one sanctions-related victory from the United States, however. Washington agreed to allow it to invest in the expansion of Iran’s port of Chabahar if it complies with U.S. import sanctions against Iran.

Chabahar is key to an Indian policy of offsetting Pakistan’s and China’s use of Pakistan’s port of Gwadar to project more power in the region. China has made renovation and expansion of the port of Gwadar an integral part of its $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project. The project includes a naval base.

Chabahar is only 107 miles from Gwadar. Iran has asked India to help it build steel and petrochemical plants in the port to boost its economy and increase development along the Makrān coast. It also plans to create a free trade zone in the port to try to spur economic growth.

 

With so many countries trying to flex their muscle in the region —the United States, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China and Pakistan—India is likely to find it harder to strike a balance between competing interests in the Middle East and Southwest Asia.

It will continue to accommodate Iran by supporting the nuclear deal and by participating in mutually beneficial projects such as the expansion of the port of Chabahar.

But it will be increasingly difficult and dangerous for Indian refining and petrochemical companies to find wiggle room that allows them to avoid U.S. sanctions, as they once did.

Rauf Mammadov is a resident scholar at Middle East Institute and Senior Advi

sor at Gulf State Analytics.

Omid Shokri Kalehsar is a Washington-based senior energy security analyst, and Ph.D. Candidate in International Relations at Yalova University, Turkey.

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/middle-east-watch/us-sanctions-threaten-indias-importation-iranian-oil-28252?page=0%2C1

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Identifying and Explaining Geopolitical Opportunities of Energy (Oil and Gas) as part of a Long-Term Strategy for Iran and Russia

Lifting sanctions in the wake of the Iranian nuclear deal opened large opportunities for resource-rich Iran to bring its long-stagnant industry up to date. Most of the oil fields in Iran are in the second half of their production capabilities, with the productivity of wells decreasing by 8% annually. The result has been a decline in foreign exchange earnings and the gradual loss of Iran’s share in the oil market. According to Iranian officials, Iran needs around $100 billion foreign investment in the oil, gas and petrochemical sectors” to increase its oil efficiency.

 

A major Russian investment in Iran’s energy sector came in the form of Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant. Russia has been active in Iranian nuclear power since mid-1990 and has continued cooperation with the country’s nuclear plan despite opposition from the West. Rosatom completed the Bushher Power Plant with some delay, and some analysts believe the cost of completing this power plant was higher than could have been achieved through other companies. Iran and Russia also signed agreements for the construction of a further nuclear power plant. Electricity generated in the Busher Power plant supply just about 2% of Iran’s electricity demands. Nuclear cooperation is thus more so in Russia’s favor.

 

In 2017, Iran and Russia signed an oil-for-food deal with Iran to be will be implemented next month with the purchase of 100 000 barrels of oil a day from Iran. The first oil for food agreement was signed in 2014, in the midst of EU and US sanctions. In Januray  2014, Iran and Russia an oil-for-goods swap worth $1.5 billion per month that would enable Iran to lift oil exports substantially, undermining Western sanctions. Such agreements could come back on the agenda with the likely return of new US sanctions, and causing Russia to once again play a role in the Iranian energy sector.

 

By 2015, Russian firms such as Luk Oil and Gazprom began showing interest in investing in Iran’s energy sector.  On March 2015, Russia’s Zarubezhneft signed agreements with the Iranian Oil Ministry to boost production at two oil fields in the country’s west. Zarubezhneft and Dana Energy, will develop the Aban and Paydar fields in Ilam province near the Iraqi border jointly with a private Iranian company, to boost production from 36 000 to 48 000 barrels of oil per day. The Russian company Zarupozhgft’s share of this contract is 80%, and the share of the National Iranian Oil Company is 20%. The cost of increasing the production efficiency of Aban and Sustainable West oil fields is estimated at $675 million. In addition, $68 million is also expected to cover indirect costs for the project. Part of this money will be spent on the repair of pumps and replacement of worn pumps.

 

After US withdraw nuclear deal major foreign companies withdraw from Iran energy sector. Luk oil official said that they no more consider invest in Iran oil and gas fields. It should be noted that in during past years and last round of US and EU sanctions, Russia had no major investments in Iran’s upstream industry. Russia prefers to invest in oil and gas fields which will pose no threat to its own oil and gas market. Both countries are trying to use their vast hydrocarbon reserves as a political tool to get more gain in their relations with rest of the world. Thus, despite its diplomatic and economic cooperation with Iran, Russia is in favor of any sanctions which decrease Iran’s oil and gas production capacity.

 

Limiting the production capacities of Iranian oil and gas is in favor of Russia and other major oil producers. At present, Iran only exports natural gas to Turkey and has no major plans to export more natural gas for other countries. In terms of natural gas and LNG, Iran is far from posing a threat to the Russian market, but in oil Iran still has potential. US new sanctions aimed at decreasing Iran’s oil exports give an opportunity to Russia to fill the vacuum and take Iran’s would-be share in the regional and global market, especially in Asia and the EU.

 

Russia’s investments in Iran have led to closer coordination in foreign policy, not least with regards to Syria. Last year, and in mid-2018 ,Russian official many times declared their interest in investing  about  50 b$ in Iran’s energy sector. In the first week of July, the Senior Advisor to the Leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution in International Affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati visited Russia, and after negotiations with Russian officials said that Russia was ready to invest  50 b$ in Iran’s energy sector. The discussion focused on Russo-Iranian cooperation on issues in the region, including developments in Syria. The parties reaffirmed their commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s Nuclear Deal (JCPOA), Iran-Russia energy relations after US withdrawal from the JPCOA, thereby utilizing the situation to further bilateral relation with an obvious increase in Russian influence on Iran. In an alternative scenario, Iran could provide an alternative to Russian gas for the EU in the long term.

 

On 23 July , Iranian Oil Minister Bizhan Zanghaneh attended the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) in Moscow, meeting with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak. They discussed bilateral relation, particularly in the field of energy. Last March, Russia and Iran signed a string of cooperation agreements in various fields, including energy. Details of the outcome of these meetings have still not been distributed to the press.

 

The actual question is whether despite the US opting out of the nuclear agreement, whether Russian investments in the country’s natural gas and oil fields will have an impact? This rests on whether the investments will go towards developing infrastructure and technological capacities. If this is the case, then which countries will benefit from purchasing renewed output? How will this renewal impact Iran’s regional relations? Will Russia eye this development closely? The coming months will reveal much on this front.

https://uwidata.com/

 

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