TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran and Chinese firm Sinopec on Sunday signed a long-awaited final contract for the multi-billion-dollar development of the Yadavaran oilfield in southwestern Iran.
The deal is one of the biggest foreign energy contracts ever signed by Iran, which holds the world’s second-largest oil and gas reserves and is seeking development of its oil fields.
The contract was signed in Tehran by Zhou Baixiu, the head of Sinopec’s international arm and Iranian Deputy Oil Minister for international affairs Hossein Noghrehkar Shirazi, an AFP correspondent present at the ceremony said.
Iran and Sinopec in late 2004 inked the initial agreement to develop Yadavaran, which is estimated to hold 3.2 billion barrels of recoverable crude.
But the Iran-China talks had been long held up by disagreements on the terms of the Yadavaran deal, most notably involving the rate of return proposed by Sinopec.
Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari said earlier this year that Iran sought a lower rate of return in the investment to be made by China, which had asked for 15 percent.
The two sides have yet to outline the final financial details of the contract.
The signing of the contract comes as the United States has been pressuring European and Asian countries to cut their business ties with Iran as another lever to exert pressure on the Islamic republic in the nuclear crisis.
The National Iranian Oil Company’s (NIOC) director for exploration Mahmoud Mohades had earlier put the Yadavaran field’s reserves at 18.3 billion barrels estimating recoverable oil at 3.2 billion barrels.
He said that Sinopec would be the sole main partner and investor in the field.
Iran and China have significant economic ties and Beijing is the second largest importer of Iranian goods after Japan.
China is a veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council and has until now been reluctant to support fully a US-led drive to impose a third set of UN sanctions against Tehran because of its nuclear programme.