Oil minister Bijan Zanganeh has handed the running of Iran’s national oil company to a trusted ally in a push to agree long-awaited deals with global oil majors, which could be derailed by next year’s presidential polls.
Iran has pledged to open up its lucrative oil reserves, the world’s fourth largest, although hardline rivals of reformist President Hassan Rouhani have opposed the new contracts, saying Iranian natural resource reserves cannot be owned by foreigners.
The new deals, known as Iran Petroleum Contracts (IPCs), follow the lifting of Western sanctions in January and would end a system dating back more than 20 years under which foreign firms were banned from owning stakes in Iranian companies.
Iran last week selected several local firms which can become partners of Western oil companies and on Monday, Zanganeh pledged to tender 10 to 15 fields under new deals as early as this summer. Oil majors insist these must be more attractive than the loss-making contracts of the 1990s.
The change follows the naming this month of Zanganeh’s trusted ally Ali Kardor as head of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), replacing Rokneddin Javadi who had held the post since 2013 and has been made deputy oil minister for supervising hydrocarbon resources.