Reuters: Russian oil firm LUKOIL said on Monday it would soon have to stop work at the Anaran oil project in Iran because U.S. sanctions meant it could not invest more than $20 million in the huge development. MOSCOW/OSLO, Oct 22 (Reuters) – Russian oil firm LUKOIL said on Monday it would soon have to stop work at the Anaran oil project in Iran because U.S. sanctions meant it could not invest more than $20 million in the huge development.
“We have discovered the largest deposit in Iran but cannot work there because there is a U.S. State Department ban on foreign investments of third countries for over $20 million,” Interfax quoted LUKOIL Vice-President Leonid Fedun as saying.
The company said later in a statement it had not yet stopped work but would be forced to do so as soon as its investments reached the level of $20 million.
Norway’s StatoilHydro has a 75 percent interest and LUKOIL holds 25 percent in the Anaran block, where oil was found at the Azar field in 2005. The companies have said the field’s estimated reserves were 2 billion barrels of oil.
StatoilHydro said it was still considering plans for developing the Iranian field and that no new decisions had been made regarding the project.
“We have looked at the development plan (for Anaran), and we are still looking,” StatoilHydro spokeswoman Kjersti Morstoel told Reuters. “There are no new decisions (on that project).”
StatoilHydro became the project’s main shareholder after Norway’s Statoil completed its takeover of oil and gas operations from its peer Norsk Hydro on Oct.1.
Iranian oil officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
LUKOIL, in which U.S. ConocoPhillips owns 20 percent, last year sold 22 percent of its refined products in the United States, where it owns around 2,000 retail stations.
On Monday LUKOIL’s stock closed down 2.6 percent, in line with other Russian oil stocks, which fell on the back of weaker oil prices.
The U.S. Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 calls for sanctions against any person or company making investments of $20 million or more in Iran in any 12-month period that enhance Iran’s ability to develop its petroleum resources. To date no sanctions have been imposed.
Western countries accuse Iran of aiming to build nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian nuclear programme, which Tehran denies.
“When it comes to StatoilHydro’s current activities in Iran, we will complete our contract obligations in the different projects but we will take all relevant issues into consideration before making any new investment decisions,” Morstoel said.
In addition to the Anaran block, StatoilHydro is also engaged in developing the huge South Pars gas field in the Iranian part of the Gulf.