July 17 (UPI) -- The Iranian government aims to sign a handful of oil and gas development deals with foreign companies by the end of the year, an oil company director said.
Gholamreza Manouchehri, deputy for development and engineering at the National Iranian Oil Co., said President Hassan Rouhani has set of goal of signing 10 new development deals by the end of the Iranian calendar year, March 20.
"The gas deal [with Total] and similar contracts will increase the country's stability and security," he was quoted as saying by SHANA, the Iranian Oil Ministry's news website. "We are keen to accelerate the development of Iran's petroleum industry and plan to sign 10 more deals by the end of the year."
In early July, a consortium of French energy company Total, China National Petroleum Corp. and Petropars Ltd., a subsidiary of the state-run National Iranian Oil Co., signed a 20-year contract to help develop parts of the giant South Pars natural gas field in the Persian Gulf.
The French company will serve as the operator of South Pars Phase 11 with its 50.1 percent stake in the project. Petropars is the minor shareholder in the consortium with a 19.9 percent stake.
Consultant group Wood Mackenzie estimated developing Phase 11 of the South Pars field would require about $5 billion in investments and yield about 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
In January, the Iranian Oil Ministry published a list of 29 foreign oil and gas companies that are qualified to take part in any upcoming tenders for exploration and production. The NIOC, a target of U.S. sanctions, said the list represented a "big step" in opening Iranian oil and natural gas fields up to Western investors.
Schlumberger, the largest oil- and gas-field services company in the world, is the only one on the list that has offices in the United States.
European majors are warming to Iran in the post-sanctions environment and Total's agreement could be a watershed for Iran, which is the only member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries with room for growth so it can regain a market share lost to sanctions.
Royal Dutch Shell was among the first companies to buy Iranian crude oil in the post-sanctions era.