Iran says wants to work with Qatar to boost gas output

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Iran wants to work with Qatar to improve gas production from the giant field they share under the Gulf, Iran’s new energy minister said on Tuesday.

Multi-billion dollar sales of liquefied natural gas (LNG) have made tiny Qatar one of the world’s wealthiest countries, while western sanctions have prevented Tehran from making the most of its share of the world’s biggest gas field.

Western companies supplied the technology Qatar needed to ship LNG from the vast North Field around the world, while their governments banned them from selling that technology to Tehran.

Difficulties accessing foreign technology and expertise have also slowed Iranian progress in raising production from the field it calls South Pars, constraining exports by pipeline.

Since starting work last week, Zanganeh has made a rapid ramp up of production from South Pars a top priority, and suggested on Iranian state television that Qatar might be interested in boosting cooperation as Iran’s output grows.

“We are ready to negotiate with this country... but the point is that Qatar shows willingness for talks anytime our conditions are conducive to recovery from this joint field. When our [rate of gas] recovery is low they are reluctant to talk,” he said.

“Under the present circumstances, we will definitely negotiate with the Qatari side and naturally they will pursue their own interests in recovery from this joint field.”

Having already built a multi-billion dollar a month LNG export business -- which is bankrolling Qatar’s 2022 World Cup soccer tournament and its growing political ambitions -- Doha has imposed a moratorium on any new projects on the field to preserve it for future generations.

The self-imposed production project ban is expected to last until at least 2015. Zanganeh did not say why he thinks U.S. ally Qatar would want to work with Iran to pump more gas.

State-run Qatar Petroleum was not available for comment.

Oil industry

Zanganeh, who previously filled the post under the reformist president Mohammad Khatami, hopes to revive Iran’s sanctions-battered oil exports through a more conciliatory stance in Iran’s nuclear standoff with the West.

In comments reported by Shana on Tuesday from the interview on state television, he said Iran’s foreign ministry could help the oil ministry in its quest to reverse a slump in sales over the last year.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs by developing marketing for oil sales and the Ministry of Petroleum by enhancing production can play an effective role in oil exports,” Zanganeh said.

Sanctions imposed by Washington and the European Union in a bid to deter Iran from its nuclear enrichment activities have cut Iran’s oil exports to less than half their from pre-sanction levels of about 2.2 million barrels per day.

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