LONDON: The tempting taboo of Iran’s oil and gas riches has moved a step nearer for Western oil companies, lining up to woo Tehran if sanctions finally succumb to a diplomatic thaw.
US oil firms — barred by Washington from Iran for nearly two decades — planned to meet Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh last week at the United Nations, encouraged by the new tone in Tehran, industry sources said.
“We’re willing to talk: Iran’s got tremendous potential,” said a senior executive from a major US oil company who requested anonymity while preparing for exploratory talks.
“Once sanctions are removed, we’d definitely be interested in investing, but the contract terms have got to be attractive.”
US companies Conoco, Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Anadarko have all shown varying degrees of interest in the Islamic Republic ever since Tehran nationalised its energy sector in 1979.
That move ejected major Western players including BP — doubly tainted in Iranian eyes for its history there dating back to the political turmoil of the 1950s and beyond.
Zanganeh served as oil minister under Iran’s reformist government from 1997-2005. He intended to travel with President Hassan Rouhani to New York, but called off the trip at the last minute, the sources said.
Executives from US and European companies will be seeking new opportunities to meet with Iranian oil officials on neutral ground, industry sources said. US and European companies contacted by Reuters declined comment for this story.
“There is no embargo on talks,” said a senior European oil executive, who requested anonymity.
In step with his president’s efforts to end sanctions, Zanganeh has re-appointed Western-friendly oil experts, including his former deputy, Mehdi Hosseini, and ordered a review of Iran’s buy-back contracts that compensate foreign investors with production. “Iran is in very dire need of foreign investment,” said consultant Mehdi Varzi, formerly of the National Iranian Oil Co. “There needs to be a wholesale change of thinking.”