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Crescent in bid to develop Iranian gas field

The Sharjah oil and gas company, is seeking to develop part of Iran's biggest gasfield.

Crescent Petroleum, the Sharjah oil and gas company, is seeking to develop part of Iran's biggest gasfield. The privately held company, already a partner in a project to import gas to the UAE from another Iranian offshore field, said it was ready to invest extensively in Iran's South Pars gasfield, according to the Iranian oil ministry's official Shana news website, citing Hamid Zaheri, the branch manager for Crescent in Tehran. "If the oil ministry accepts this suggestion, we are ready to begin negotiations over the development of some of the phases of the South Pars field," Mr Zaheri said. South Pars, located in the Gulf between Iran and Qatar, contains an estimated 500 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves, making it one of the biggest deposits in the world. Iran's state-owned National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) has been pumping gas from the field since 2002. However, full development of South Pars, in as many as 30 planned phases, has been slowed by technical problems, contractual issues and politics. A problem for Iran is that the South Pars field is part of a vast gas reservoir that is also being exploited by Qatar, depleting the reserves on the Iranian side. In recent years, European energy majors including the Anglo-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell, the French company Total, Italian firm Eni and Spanish company Repsol have all suspended investment in South Pars, bowing to US political pressure and UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme. That has left the door open for companies that do not normally participate in projects of this size, analysts have said. But, in practice, most ongoing South Pars development is in the hands of Iranian enterprises. Majid Jafar, the executive director of Crescent, was unable yesterday to provide details of the company's proposed investment in South Pars, including its potential size and whether Crescent would seek partners. He also declined to comment on whether such an investment might give Crescent leverage in negotiating the long-delayed start of gas imports to Sharjah from Iran's Salman field. Crescent completed an undersea pipeline for the gas in 2006, which has sat empty pending NIOC's completion and commissioning of facilities for producing the gas. Crescent and NIOC have also failed to reach a pricing agreement and the project has faced criticism in the Iranian parliament. It is unclear whether Crescent could offer NIOC any technical expertise specific to offshore gas development. But the company has recently developed a complex gas project in northern Iraq under difficult geographical and political conditions. Last summer, it started producing gas from the Khor Mor field in the Kurdistan region, after completing the challenging development phase in 15 months. But other foreign companies that have recently sought to participate in South Pars development are considerably larger than Crescent in terms of assets. They include Turkey's state-owned petroleum company, Turkiye Petrolleri, or TPAO, and the Austrian integrated oil and gas company OMV, which is 20 per cent owned by Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Company. Iran is seeking the participation of Total and OMV in the development of liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities to export South Pars gas, but neither European company has so far indicated willingness to proceed with such a project until the political climate for investment in Iran improves. Crescent's proposed participation in South Pars would not involve LNG, as it is not among the small group of companies with the needed technical expertise. tcarlisle@thenational.ae

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