China and Iran in gas deal

TEHRAN, Feb 27 (Reuters) – The signing of a contract with China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) to develop Iran’s northern Pars gas field has been postponed to the "near future", an Iranian official said on Wednesday.

The deal was first announced in late 2006 but signing it has been delayed in the past. An Oil Ministry news report said on Tuesday the deal was worth $16 billion, lower than the $20 billion previously reported.

"The contract signing has been postponed to the near future. The reason why it was postponed today was because (Oil Minister Gholamhossein) Nozari could not take part," a spokesman for Pars Oil and Gas Company, told Reuters. He did not elaborate.

The deal is to be signed between CNOOC, which leads China’s fledgling LNG industry, and Pars Oil and Gas Company. CNOOC is the parent of Hong Kong and New York-listed CNOOC Ltd.

Iran plans to export the northern Pars production in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Northern Pars field contains 80 trillion cubic feet of gas and said each phase of development could have the capacity to produce 1.2 billion cubic feet per day, the Oil Ministry’s news Web site previously reported.

China has in recent years expanded commercial ties with the Islamic Republic and has been reluctant to impose tough economic sanctions on Iran, China’s third-largest supplier of oil.

China’s Sinopec Group, parent of Sinopec Corp. , signed a deal in December to develop Iran’s huge Yadavaran oilfield.

Iran has the world’s second-biggest crude reserves after Saudi Arabia and the second-largest gas reserves behind Russia. Although a major oil exporter, the OPEC member has been slow to expand gas exports because of sanctions and has no LNG plants. (Reporting by Hashem Kalantari; editing by James Jukwey)

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