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Shell starts process to pay Iran $2bn in oil debt

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The Anglo-Dutch energy giant Shell says it has started the proceedings to pay a debt of around $2 billion to Iran for previous oil purchases.

Global oil giant Shell has announced plans to repay its $2-billion oil debt to Iran, which it says it had been so far barred from paying due to western sanctions imposed against the country.

“Following the lifting of applicable EU and US sanctions, we can confirm that the process for paying Shell’s outstanding debt to the state-run company (NIOC) has started,” the media have quoted a Shell spokesperson as saying.

Analysts believe that the move would accordingly allow Shell to access the Iranian oil market. This is because Iran’s state oil company - the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) - has been working to recover its debt, as a precondition to start exporting oil to Shell. 

The company’s outstanding debt to Iran is a result of Iranian oil deliveries which it had been unable to reimburse as a result of the sanctions. 

Shell, along with its European peers, has also already showed a keen interest to return to the Iranian oil and gas projects. The Anglo-Dutch oil giant alongside BP, Total, and Statoil, sent a delegation to Tehran in November last year, to explore opportunities in the upstream sector of the country.

The company was involved in the development of Iran’s Soroush and Norouz oil fields in Persian Gulf waters.  It was also planning to develop a gas liquefaction project called Persian LNG in Iran’s South Pars energy zone. However, it later cancelled its plans to that effect as a result of the sanctions.

The sanctions - that were lifted in January - for multiple years imposed tight limits on Iran’s financial transactions with the world.  They also prevented companies from investing in the country’s energy projects among other restrictions. 

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