Energy Company May Withdraw from Iran South Pars Project

French President Emmanuel Macron with British PM Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel before the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia on Thursday

French energy giant Total is preparing to pull out of a billion dollar gas project in Iran in the face of renewed United States sanctions.

Total says that it has spent about 40 million euros developing the project to this point.

Determined to keep the accord alive, European leaders need to find a way to assure companies that their investments are beyond Washington's extra-territorial reach.

French oil major Total may turn its back on its $1bn (£740m) Iranian gas project within six months unless it can clinch a sanctions waiver for the project from the USA government.

Oil companies have been forced to reassess their investment plans in the OPEC producer, however, in the wake of the May 8 move by the United States to pull out of the worldwide nuclear deal with Iran and re-impose sanctions on the country. The rest of the project is under the ownership of the Iranian state energy company.

Some including energy, aerospace and rail engineering firms agreed preliminary deals, but those have now been thrown into uncertainty.

The administration of President Donald Trump is phasing back in sanctions after his withdrawal last week from the Iran nuclear deal. Calling it "decaying and rotten", he said the deal was "an embarrassment" to him "as a citizen".

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While European governments continued to support the deal with Iran, firms which operate internationally risk falling foul of the reinstated USA embargo.

The French state-backed oil group said that without an exemption from the U.S. it would halt work at the world's largest gas field and wind down all its activities by November 4.

Another Danish oil tanker operator Torm has said it would stop taking new orders in Iran.

"It would be suicide to do any new business or funding for Iran or Iran-related companies without explicit guarantees from the USA government".

Background: Despite the US withdrawal, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met with European Union leaders on May 15 to discuss how to circumvent USA sanctions in an effort to salvage the nuclear deal.

The company also confirmed its 5%/year average production growth target between 2016 and 2022, noting "various growth opportunities which have been captured by Total in recent months."Total also said its actual investment to date with respect to the south Pars contract is less than Eur40 million".

"The current situation will pass and Iran will emerge as a victor", the oil ministry's news agency SHANA quoted Zanganeh as saying.

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