1128 GMT December 15, 2018
On May 8, US President Donald Trump appeared on TV to announce, amid hopes and mostly fears and despite international efforts to persuade him to act otherwise, that Washington will pull out of the JCPOA and will reinstate nuclear sanctions on Iran.
As Iran's top economic sector in term of fetching revenue, the oil industry will again be the main target of US sanctions and most hit by the restrictions.
This comes as the officials of the Iranian Oil Ministry say the US sanctions will fail to significantly impact the oil industry particularly in case Europe remains in the JCPOA and fulfills its commitments to the deal.
Trump implemented his decision despite disapproval voiced by many countries and international organizations. Saudi Arabian and Israeli leaders were the only ones to express satisfaction with the move. Although it is not yet clear how the European Union (EU) will guarantee Iran's interests within the framework of the JCPOA will be safeguarded and served, Tehran is seeking to work out a solution to minimize the adverse impacts of US probable sanctions.
Following Washington's illegal move, the EU, along with the signatories to the JCPOA including Russia, China, France, Germany and the UK, has begun a new round of negotiations to preserve the international deal. European Union's Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini has stressed that the EU will remain committed to the JCPOA.
Nevertheless, Iran has signed a number of agreements with a number of European states the fate of which is now, more than ever, under a microscope.
These deals include the contract to sell oil to Europe, handing over the project to develop the Phase 11 of the supergiant South Pars Gas Field to Total of France as well as a number of agreements in the fields of science between European scientific centers and Iranian Research Institute of Petroleum Industry. The future of these contracts is highly dependent on Europe's decision concerning the JCPOA.
A part of these contracts and MoUs pertain to transfer of technology and education to most of which, Iran's Research Institute of Petroleum Industry is a party. The MoUs with Germany's Raschig GmbH and the University of Milan are among such agreements. An important question is to what extent the reinstatement of the sanctions can impact the Iranian oil industry's science and research sector.
Elaborating on this, Ja'far Tofiqi, the head of Iran's Research Institute of Petroleum Industry (RIPI), told Iran Daily, "We should wait and see what the Europeans' reaction would be. We maintain that Europeans will not exit the deal. In other words, we predict that the embargoes would fail to decrease our cooperation with Europeans and Asians.
"Yet, we are prepared to proceed with the projects on our own."
He said Iranian companies and universities have high capacities, adding, "In the absence of foreign firms, we will be able to also contribute to the implementation of the [country's] development projects. However, we require greater efforts to this end. I am confident that we can rapidly adapt to the new condition."
Blaming the upstream sector for domestic oil industry's weaknesses in certain areas, Tofiqi said being equipped with upstream research institutes is among RIPI's strong points.
"We will certainly be able to put in a more successful performance in case we accelerate the activities of these research institutes. These institutes have so far made significant achievements. For instance, in the project to increase oil extraction from Ahvaz oilfield in south Iran, RIPI has had a successful performance. Feasibility studies have been conducted very successfully and very good results have been obtained. We hope that these studies will soon produce favorable outcomes."
The head of RIPI added in the past few years, "we have had successful experiences in the upstream sector", saying this trend will continue.
Turning to the construction of a refinery in Syria, he said the RIPI has drawn up the design documents and has handed them over to the employer.
Iran's oil has its customers
Iran is currently exporting 2.7 million barrels of oil per day which is unprecedented in the history of the country's oil industry.
Managing Director of Iranian Oil Terminals Company Pirouz Mousavi says at present, no Iranian oil tanker is drifting at sea looking for customers.
Nevertheless, the planning of the US Department of the Treasury has been done in a way that Iran's oil exports indicate a declining trend as of late October.
The US seeks to reduce Iran's oil exports to Asia and Europe by placing pressure on European firms that are among the customers of the Middle Eastern state's crude.
It is not yet clear to what extent these sanctions will be able to achieve the objectives they have been designed to accomplish.
Some 40 percent of Iran's oil is destined for Europe and the rest is sent to Asian countries.
Managing Director of National Iranian Oil Company Ali Kardor says, "I do not think the reinstatement of the sanctions would pose any problem for Iran's overseas sales of oil. We will not face any difficulty, particularly, in the areas where [Iran's] oil is exported conventionally."
The prospect of presence in Iran's oil industry is very attractive to foreign companies due to a large number of reasons. Participation in the projects of Iran's oil sector is highly lucrative and relatively inexpensive due to the country's abundant oil and gas resources.
Earlier, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei urged the Iranian government to receive firm guarantee from the European sides within the framework of the talks to decide about the future of the JCPOA that Iran's interests will be safeguarded.
Upon the order of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the minister of foreign affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif set off on a compact tour of China, Russia and Belgium to ensure the protection of Iran's interests within the framework of the JCPOA and discuss the possibility of continuing the implementation of the JCPOA with the signatories to the treaty.