The tentative framework deal reached between Iran and the P5+1 nations over its nuclear program has raised the prospects of a broader thaw in relations. If Iran can be accepted back into the international community, the harsh sanctions on Iran’s economy could be lifted. That could lead to an opening up of Iran’s oil sector.
While that won’t mean a return to the pre-revolution days before 1979, it could result in extraordinary opportunities for the few international oil companies willing to brave the political risk.
Massive Oil and Gas Reserves
And the bounty could be big. Iran is sitting on the world’s fourth largest oil reserves and the second largest reserves of natural gas.
Western sanctions have cut into Iran’s oil exports. Iran exported 1 million barrels per day less in 2012 – when the real biting sanctions took hold – compared to the previous year. Its export revenues fell by more than half between 2011 and 2013 as a result. Iran therefore has a strong incentive to finish off a deal with the West.
Foreign oil companies are not allowed to take ownership of any oil fields. The state-owned National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) owns and operates all oil and gas operations. Instead, international companies would need to partner up with NIOC and earn through buyback contracts, in which companies receive a portion of production in exchange for their investment.