LONDON Jan 23 BP Plc, the British
government and the European Union lobbied U.S. lawmakers to have
a BP-led project exempted from proposed new U.S. sanctions which
seek to stop Western companies doing business with Iran, sources
close to the matter said.
U.S. lawmakers are mulling new sanctions to constrict the
funding that Western nations suspect Iran is using to develop
One congressional aide said senators were discussing
provisions that could bar companies like BP from working with
the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC).
NIOC's subsidiary, Naftiran Intertrade Co, owns a 10 percent
stake in the Shah Deniz project which is co-led by BP and
Norway's Statoil and which is estimated to contain 1.2
trillion cubic metres of gas.
Production at the deposit began in 2006, while second phase
production -- which is expected to help reduce Europe's reliance
on Russia for its gas supplies -- is expected to begin by late
2016 or early 2017.
"The EU has requested that the United States exempt Shah
Deniz from U.S. sanctions on the grounds that the project is
important to EU energy security," a British government source
BP acknowledged discussing the matter with lawmakers.
"We have routine engagement with Congress and we regularly
provide information to help them understand the impact of
potential legislation on certain activities we are involved in,"
a spokesman said.
BP has already been forced to shut production at the Rhum
gas field in the North Sea, following European Union (EU)
sanctions, because the Iranian Oil Co Ltd has a 50 percent.
However, Shah Deniz was exempted from these sanctions
because it is seen as more strategic. The U.S. is also an eager
supporter of the project as it is keen for Europe to reduce its
reliance on Russia for energy imports.