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China’s largest crude oil refiner, Sinopec, has offered US$3 billion to Iran’s state oil company, NIOC, to jointly expand the development of a major field in Iran, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing sources in the know.
The sources, who wished to remain unnamed, said the Chinese company considered the offer safe from the sanctions the United States reimposed on Iran last November because the initial deal for the development of the Yadavaran field was inked back in 2007.
The offer, according to the Wall Street Journal, was made last month but it is only now coming to light as media and analysts speculate whether Washington will extend the sanction waivers granted to eight Iranian oil importers will be extended beyond the original deadline.
Three of the eight countries, meanwhile, have completely stopped buying Iranian oil: Taiwan, Italy, and Greece. However, these are not the biggest buyers of Iranian crude and some analysts believe the other five—China, India, South Korea, Japan, and Turkey—may be granted waiver extensions that are, however, bound to come at a cost.
Sinopec, along with the other Chinese state oil giant, CNPC, have already invested heavily in Iran’s oil industry as domestic production declines due to field depletion and the country’s growing oil hunger needs to be satisfied with imported crude.
Yadavaran, as well as another field along Iran’s border with Iraq, are among the largest projects. Yadavaran holds an estimated 31 billion barrels of crude, which makes it one of the largest undeveloped fields in the world, and North Azadegan contains estimated reserves of 5.7 billion barrels.
Sinopec has already invested US$2 billion in the development of Yadavaran, with production there standing at 115,000 bpd, while North Azadegan, operated by NIOC and CNPC, started production at a rate of 75,000 bpd two years ago.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.
The Trump administration is aware that China will go ahead with its investments in oil projects in Iran and will also continue to buy Iranian crude with or without waivers. Moreover, the Trump administration can’t stop China dealing with Iran even if it tried.
The United States has no alternative but to renew the sanction waivers it granted to eight countries in November last year when they expire in May this year or issue new ones.
There are two important reasons for that. The first is for the Trump administration to use them as a fig leaf to mask the fact that their zero exports option is out of reach and that the sanctions have so far failed to cost Iran the loss of even one single barrel of oil.
The second reason is that the United States risks exposing its weakness and helplessness in enforcing the sanctions were it not to renew the waivers in May or fail to issue new ones. The eight countries who received waivers in November with the exception of South Korea and Japan will not stop buying Iranian crude if the waivers were not renewed and the US has no power to force them to stop.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London