MOSCOW/OSLO, (Reuters) – Russian oil firm LUKOIL said on Monday it had suspended work on the Anaran oil project in Iran due to U.S. sanctions but its partner Norway’s StatoilHydro said it was still studying the project.
“We have discovered the largest deposit in Iran but cannot work there because there is a U.S. state department ban on foreign investments of third countries for over $20 million,” Interfax quoted LUKOIL Vice-President Leonid Fedun as saying.
StatoilHydro has a 75 percent interest and LUKOIL holds 25 percent in the Anaran block where oil was found at the Azar field in 2005. The companies have said the field’s estimated reserves were 2 billion barrels of oil.
LUKOIL, in which U.S. ConocoPhillips owns 20 percent, last year sold 22 percent of its refined products in the United States, where it owns around 2,000 retail stations.
StatoilHydro said it was still considering plans for developing the Iranian field and that no new decisions had been made regarding the project.
“We have looked at the development plan (for Anaran), and we are still looking,” StatoilHydro spokeswoman Kjersti Morstoel told Reuters. “There are no new decisions (on that project).”
StatoilHydro became the project’s main shareholder after Norway’s Statoil completed its takeover of oil and gas operations from its peer Norsk Hydro on Oct.1.
Iranian oil officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
The U.S. Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 calls for sanctions against any person or company making investments of $20 million or more in Iran in any 12-month period that enhance Iran’s ability to develop its petroleum resources. But to date no sanctions have been imposed.
“When it comes to StatoilHydro’s current activities in Iran, we will complete our contract obligations in the different projects but we will take all relevant issues into consideration before making any new investment decisions,” Morstoel said.
In addition to the Anaran block, StatoilHydro is also engaged in developing the huge South Pars gas field in the Iranian part of the Gulf.