Total CEO: Iranian Pars LNG project at impasse

Eric Watkins
Senior Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 26 -- Total SA Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie said the Iranian Pars LNG project has reached an impasse.

At an analysts' conference in London, de Margerie said speculation about geopolitics playing a large part in his firm's talks with Iran were exaggerated, as the talks had yet to produce a contract.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner last week said in an international radio broadcast that French companies, including Total and Gaz de France, had been warned not to enter into new deals in Iran.

Other reports said the French government was applying pressure on oil and gas firms to freeze all investments in Iran in an effort to force Teheran into giving up its uranium enrichment program and nuclear ambitions.

The daily newspaper Le Monde reported Sept. 18 that the recommendation falls within the framework of an allegedly tougher political stance toward the Islamic republic by French President Nicolas Sarkozy (OGJ, Sept. 24, 2007, p. 24).

Total said its refining operations are profitable, but it will continue to expand capacity in regions east of current operations such as its joint venture with Saudi Aramco in Jubail, which will be one key to maintaining refining profitability.

De Margerie also warned oil companies of "resource nationalism," under which nations increase pressure to hand control of projects to national oil companies.

He said international oil companies should "be adamant to keep the project on time and within budget…to avoid opening doors to renegotiations from national oil companies or from contractors."

De Margerie's comments came as the US House of Representatives, by a vote of 397-16, passed new energy sanctions aimed at depriving Iran of energy sales proceeds that could be diverted towards its nuclear program.

The bill sanctions foreign companies with US subsidiaries that invest in Iran, particularly in the oil and gas industry. According to one sponsor of the bill, "Too many foreign energy firms have become functional allies in Tehran's efforts to build a nuclear bomb."

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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