Zan­ganeh tapped to stay Iran Oil Min­is­ter

Muscat Daily - - BUSINESS -

Dubai, UAE - Iran’s Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani pro­posed the reap­point­ment of its longest­serv­ing Oil Min­is­ter, Bi­jan Nam­dar Zan­ganeh, who fought to re­store crude pro­duc­tion and closed a land­mark deal with Total SA to de­velop the Gulf coun­try’s share of the big­gest nat­u­ral gas field.

Rouhani sub­mit­ted names of his Cab­i­net nom­i­nees, in­clud­ing Zan­ganeh, for par­lia­men­tary ap­proval, Tas­nim news agency re­ported on Tues­day. Zan­ganeh, a 65 year old en­gi­neer who served two pres­i­dents as Oil Min­is­ter, suc­ceeded in shield­ing Iran from join­ing global cuts in crude pro­duc­tion by OPEC and other ma­jor sup­pli­ers. Par­lia­ment is set to vote on his reap­point­ment start­ing next week, ac­cord­ing to state me­dia.

Dur­ing the first of his two terms as Oil Min­is­ter, from 1997 un­til 2005, Zan­ganeh en­ticed for­eign com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Total and Royal Dutch Shell Plc to help re­vive Iran’s oil and gas fields af­ter years of un­der-in­vest­ment. He re­turned to the post in 2013 and boosted the na­tion’s oil ex­ports as pro­duc­tion rose by about 1mn bar­rels a day af­ter the eas­ing of eco­nomic sanc­tions in January 2016.

His lat­est ef­forts to woo in­vestors bore fruit when Total signed a con­tract on July 3 to de­velop South Pars, Iran’s share of the world’s largest gas de­posit, the first ma­jor in­vest­ment by an in­ter­na­tional en­ergy com­pany since sanc­tions were scaled back.

“Zan­ganeh’s straight­for­ward and no-non­sense ap­proach was key in open­ing Iran’s petroleum sec­tor to for­eign in­vest­ment in the late 1990s,” and he was a cat­a­lyst al­most 20 years later for the mile­stone con­tract with Total, said Robin Mills, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer at Dubai-based con­sul­tant Qa­mar En­ergy. The Total agree­ment is ‘a big deal’ that can ‘open the door for more com­pa­nies to sign con­tracts with the coun­try’.

When other mem­bers of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Petroleum Ex­port­ing Coun­tries de­cided last Novem­ber to pump less oil to re­duce a global glut, Zan­ganeh wran­gled per­mis­sion for Iran to raise out­put by 90,000 bar­rels a day. He pre­served the spe­cial ar­range­ment when OPEC and al­lied pro­duc­ers ex­tended their sup­ply cuts through next March.

Zan­ganeh’s first ten­ure as min­is­ter ended in 2005 when then-pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad dis­missed him amid al­le­ga­tions of a ‘mafia’ pres­ence at the Oil Min­istry. Zan­ganeh de­nied any wrong­do­ing and was ap­pointed to the Ex­pe­di­ency Coun­cil, an ad­vi­sory body to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei. He re­turned as Oil Min­is­ter in 2013 un­der Rouhani, Ah­madine­jad’s suc­ces­sor.

While Zan­ganeh has also worked to ex­pand the petro­chem­i­cals in­dus­try, boost­ing oil out­put has been his para­mount goal. “Re­vival of Iran’s lost oil mar­kets is among my top pri­or­i­ties,” he told the Fars News agency in Au­gust 2013, days af­ter be­gin­ning his sec­ond ten­ure as Oil Min­is­ter.

Iran's Oil Min­is­ter Bi­jan Nam­dar Zan­ganeh

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