French energy company Total has two months to secure an exemption from US sanctions if it wants to remain as an investor in Iran’s offshore gas exploration, the country’s oil minister said.
Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) would take over if the US Department of Treasury failed to issue a waiver for Total.
“During these 60 days, the French government can negotiate with the US government over the fate of Total’s investment in Iran,” the Tehran-based Mehr news agency quoted Zanganeh as saying on Wednesday.
On May 16, Total announced that it might pull out of its investment in the South Pars gas field if it cannot secure a waiver from the US government.
Trump also warned that even foreign companies doing business in Iran could face punitive measures in the United States.
That includes Total, which signed a deal to invest more than $2bn in Iran in July 2017.
CNPC owns an estimated 30 percent of the project, while the rest is owned by Iran’s Petropars. If completed, the project will generate 56 million cubic metres of natural gas per day, according to Iran’s Financial Tribune.
Total is a publicly listed company in the New York Stock Exchange, and its revenue in 2017 was reported at $171.5bn.
The latest development on Total comes as Russia’s second oil producer, Lukoil, announced on Tuesday that it was putting its plan to invest in Iran on hold due to threats of US sanctions.
“Considering the latest developments, I guess, it’s too early to say what our plans (about Iran) will be. For the moment, basically, we have everything on hold,” a company official was quoted by Reuters as saying.
Russia is one of Iran’s closest allies.
European powers still see the nuclear accord as the best chance of stopping Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and have intensified efforts to save the pact.
Zanganeh also said on state television that an agreement with Europe would inspire other potential buyers of Iranian oil.
“Europe is buying only one-third of Iranian oil, but an agreement with Europe is important to guarantee our sales, and find insurance for the ships ferrying the crude. Other buyers would also be inspired by this,” he said.