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French Total Hits The Brakes On Major Iranian Gas Project

Total SA has announced it will not go ahead with its South Pars Gas Project (SP11) unless it is granted a specific project waiver by the United States, along with support of the French and European authorities, The French major said in a Wednesday press release.

The contract for the SP11 contract was signed in July 2017, and Total will unwind all operations related to the project by November 4, 2018, unless the waiver is granted. Total’s announcement is in line with previous claims that it may be unable to conduct business in Iran should the US bow out of the Iran nuclear deal and levy sanctions against Iran.

Sunk costs for Total as relates to its 50.1 percent stake in the project amount to roughly 40 million euros, according to its press release, but previous reports are that Total has sunk about $90 million into South Pars. An additional $1 billion has been committed to the project.

The waiver that Total seeks would include protection from any secondary sanction per US legislation, which would be crucial given the fact that Total relies on US banks for nearly 90% of its financing operations, and 30% of its shareholders are US shareholders. Further, Total’s US assets include about $10 billion, posing a risk it is unwilling to take.

Related: $4 Gasoline Could Cripple The U.S. Economy

The South pars field is the biggest gas deposit in the world, shared by Iran and Qatar. The 20-year development project, of which Total is for now a part of, envisages bringing gas production from the field to 2 billion cu ft of gas daily.

NIOC has in the past stated that it would not compensate Total for any investment it has made in the project thus far.

Total was the first Western company to take a gamble by re-entering Iran’s oil and gas industry after sanctions were lifted in 2016, after being forced out of the country the first time sanctions were announced.

By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

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