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India may lose another gas project in Iran

Press Trust Of India  |  New Delhi 

India’s oil diplomacy that suffered a setback last week when China snatched a deal to develop one of Iran’s biggest oilfields, may again be losing out. This time, on a in that country, apparently over delays on India’s part.

After giving the South Azadegan oilfield to China, Iran has trimmed ONGC-Hinduja Group joint venture’s promised 60 per cent stake in Phase-12 of the South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf, highly placed sources said today.

Iran had last year identified South Azadegan oilfield and South Pars Phase-12 (SP-12) gas field for the state-owned ONGC and Hinduja combine, but in the 21 months since then, virtually no progress has been made. Iran has put the onus on India. Last week, Iran signed a deal to give the 260,000 barrels per day South Azadegan oilfield along the Iraqi border to China’s CNPC. And it has now given one-third out of the promised 60 per cent stake in $7.5 billion SP-12 to Angola’s state-owned oil firm Sonangol.

While a firm agreement with Sonangol has not been signed yet, it has already signed for 10 per cent stake in SP-12 with Venezuela’s PdVSA and was also courting Austria’s OMV, the sources said.

While Tehran believes New Delhi may be dithering on energy ties under US pressure, Petroleum Minister Murli Deora said India placed “immense importance to ties with Iran and (will) continue to pursue energy projects”.

“We are very seriously engaged with Iran... Be it import of gas through a pipeline or oil and gas fields for ONGC. We will continue to pursue projects in Iran and back our PSUs in their bid to get oil and gas fields,” Deora said. “I am very hopeful that Iran will consider ONGC for grant of at least one big oil and gas field.”

He is also keen on a meeting with the new Iranian Oil Minister Masoud Mirkazemi.

ONGC Chairman and Managing Director R S Sharma said a few weeks back that he had extended an invitation to National Iranian Oil Co (NIOC) Managing Director Seifollah Jashnsaz to discuss SP-12 and other projects, but since the suggested dates did not suit him, new dates were under discussion.

ONGC has already committed $5 billion in developing the Farsi gas field in the same Persian Gulf.

Iran had last year agreed to give the joint venture of ONGC Videsh — the overseas arm of state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp — and Hinduja Group firm Ashok Leyland Project Services a 60 per cent stake in SP-12 gas field.

But the Islamic republic has signed heads of agreements for 20 per cent of the stake meant for ONGC-Hinduja in the $7.5-billion gas field with Angola’s Sonangol.Last month, it gave Venezuela’s state oil firm Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, a 10 per cent stake for $760 million.

Sharma said, irrespective of setbacks, ONGC would continue to pursue opportunities in Iran. “We should look at ways and means to pursue opportunities in Iran.”

Besides South Azadegan, Iran has also awarded the $4.7-billion Phase-11 of South Pars field to China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC).

SP-12 has a production target of 3 billion cubic feet per day — all or most of which may be used to supply planned liquefaction facilities for LNG exports. It will also produce 120,000 barrels per day of condensate.The two trains will produce almost 8.5 million tonnes per annum of LNG from gas piped in from SP-12.

Sources said ONGC-Hinduja wanted to export the LNG produced to India.

The SP-12 project operated by State-owned Iranian company Petropars has been modified to take in a fourth production platform and increase the number of wells being drilled.

First Published: Mon, October 05 2009. 00:08 IST