Iran General NewsTotal says has not left Iran gas deal

Total says has not left Iran gas deal

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ImageReuters: Total said on Thursday that it was still involved in the multi-billion dollar development of a major Iranian gas field, a day after Tehran announced it had replaced the French oil major by China's CNPC.

By Marie Maitre and Muriel Boselli

ImagePARIS (Reuters) – Total said on Thursday that it was still involved in the multi-billion dollar development of a major Iranian gas field, a day after Tehran announced it had replaced the French oil major by China's CNPC.

"We are still involved in this project and especially in the major project of South Pars 11, combined with the liquefied natural gas (LNG) train," Jean-Jacques Mosconi, head of strategy and planning at Total, told the Reuters Energy Summit.

On Wednesday, the official Iranian news agency IRNA said Tehran had signed a $4.7 billion contract with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) to develop phase 11 of South Pars, replacing Total which it had accused of delays.

Mosconi said Total, the world's fourth largest listed oil company, would remain operator in the field, which is part of the world's largest reservoir of gas.

"We are not used to enter a major project without remaining a key operator. Our role cannot change in a deep way and we will remain a key operator of the project, so this means having a key stake in the project," he said.

Total has a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Iran's oil company NIOC to develop Phase 11 but the project was overshadowed by haggling over contract terms.

NIOC has reportedly accused Total of delays and said it had given the Paris-based company an ultimatum six months ago to finalize work before Tehran moved forward with another partner.

The South Pars reservoir is shared by Iran and Qatar. The Iranian part is divided into 24 phases.

Although Mosconi would not comment on the CNPC deal, he said Total had been repeatedly rumored to have been ousted of the project.

"I can tell you we are still in," he said, adding Total had never lost its relationship with Iranian authorities.

"For sure some Chinese companies are very active to try to play major games to gain a bigger role in Iran."

With Western firms wary of investing in Iran due to its nuclear row with the United States, Tehran has been increasingly looking toward energy-hungry Asian countries to help exploit its vast gas fields.

(For summit blog: blogs.reuters.com/summits/)

(Additional reporting by Benjamin Mallet in Paris, Tom Bergin and Barbara Lewis in London)

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