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OMV may quit Iran project

Tehran, June 24, 2009

Austrian oil company OMV AG has resisted Iranian pressure to push ahead with investment in a gas project and is prepared to be dropped as a partner, rather than invest now, an executive said on Wednesday.

Helmut Langanger, OMV exploration and production boss, said the political environment and financial framework would have to be right before OMV could proceed with its planned investment in Phase 12 of the giant South Pars offshore gas field.

'On and off they say 'You should start here by such and such date' and then we say 'wait and see until the oil price recovers',' Langanger told Reuters in an interview.

'If they wanted they could replace us ... They are proceeding with the project on their own without us and they don't get hampered by us'.

In April 2007, OMV signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the National Iranian Oil Companythat envisaged OMV participating in Phase 12 and in a plant that would liquefy the field's gas for export in LNG tankers.

However, western investment in Iran's oil and gas industry has stalled following pressure from the US and European governments who fear Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear programme is aimed towards electricity generation only.

Other oil companies including Royal Dutch Shell, Spain's Repsol and France's Total have either pulled out of Iranian projects or been replaced as partners, after Iran became frustrated with their failure to proceed in line with the terms of MOUs.

Langanger said there was a possibility that Iran could develop Phase 12 without OMV, if the company did not come on board in the next two to three years.

The E&P Boss said despite a reduction in capital investment this year, OMV was sticking to its 350,000 to 360,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) production target for 2010, adding added: 'It will be a tough call but I maintain it.'

Production averaged 308,000 boepd in the first quarter of 2009 but will be boosted by new field startups including the Komsomolskoe field in Kazakhstan, which should begin pumping in the coming weeks, Langanger said.

Turkish agreement on participating in the OMV-led Nabucco pipeline may take longer than expected, after Turkey's energy minister said talks on a deal could stretch into July from an earlier estimate of a June conclusion.

Langanger suggested deal talks could even stretch into August saying he foresaw a deal only 'during summer time', adding that his refusal to narrow his timing was deliberate.

The pipeline aims to reduce Europe's reliance on Russia by bringing gas into the continent from Central Asia and the Middle East via Turkey and the Balkans.

Langanger said that after OMV cut its capital investment budget by around a third for 2009, he did not plan further cuts this year. However, he also is not planning to raise spending, partly because he is not convinced that the trough in the oil price has passed.

OMV shares traded up 6.3 percent at 27 euros at 1517 GMT, the biggest gainer among Europe's mid-sized refining-heavy oil companies. Hungary's MOL was up 5 percent and Spain's Repsol was up 3.4 percent.-Reuters




Tags: OMV | quit | Iran project |

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