China’s state-owned energy major CNPC has taken over the share in Iran’s multibillion-dollar South Pars gas project held by France’s Total, the Iranian state news agency IRNA reported on Saturday.

Total signed a contract in 2017 to develop Phase II of South Pars field with an initial investment of US$1 billion, marking the first major Western energy investment in the country after sanctions were lifted in 2016. South Pars has the world’s biggest natural gas reserves ever found in one place.

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But the French company had said it would pull out unless it secured a US sanctions waiver, and Gholamreza Manouchehri, deputy head of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), said in June that if Total were to walk away, then CNPC would take over.

“China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) has replaced Total of France with an 80.1 per cent stake in the phase 11 of the South Pars (gas field),” IRNA quoted Mohammad Mostafavi, director of investment of Iran’s state oil firm NIOC, as saying.

A spokeswoman for Total declined to comment.

Total has not said what it would do with its stake should it pull out, and it has until November 4 to wind down its Iran operations.

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The renewed US sanctions were among those lifted under a 2015 deal between world powers and Tehran on curbing Iran’s nuclear programme. US President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in May. Washington is planning to impose heavier sanctions in November aimed at Iran’s oil sector.

There was no immediate confirmation of the IRNA report by CNPC, which earlier held a 30 per cent stake in the project and has now taken over Total’s 50.1 per cent share, according to IRNA. The remainder is held by Iran’s Petropars.


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