Iran could be ready to help Europe develop its liquefied natural gas market if and when sanctions are eased under a comprehensive nuclear deal, Petroleum Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh told diplomats and executives.
The Persian Gulf country, with the world’s second biggest natural gas reserves, would favor shipping liquefied gas to Europe rather than building a pipeline, Zanganeh said at an energy-security conference in Berlin on Thursday. European gas prices make large infrastructure projects like pipelines difficult, he said.
“I don’t rule out a pipeline but there are so many transport problems, legal issues and fees,” Zanganeh said. “That wouldn’t be our choice in the first instance.”
As nuclear negotiators inch closer to an agreement that would suspend Iranian economic isolation, Iran is looking for new channels to profit from an end to sanctions. Europe is seeking to diversify its energy suppliers beyond Russia due to the conflict over Ukraine and past gas delivery disputes. Diplomats have until June 30 to complete the technical parameters of an Iranian nuclear agreement.
“Financial and oil sanctions all need to be lifted,” Zanganeh said. “Our people need to understand that times of hostility are over.”
Qatar is currently the biggest LNG producer in the Middle East and ships 77 million tons of the fuel per year. Sanctions have forced Iran to slow down plans for a $3.3 billion LNG plant. Most Iranian natural gas exports are currently shipped via pipeline to Turkey.
Should a nuclear deal emerge, Iran won’t suffer financing gaps as it begins to boost natural gas and oil investments, Zanganeh said. The country can cover LNG infrastructure costs and has $10 billion earmarked to boost oil production at its western Karun fields by 700,000 barrels a day, he said.
In the first stage after sanctions are lifted, Iran’s energy sector will focus on recapturing market share lost due to sanctions.
“We need to achieve the status we had before.” Zanganeh said.