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Iran's offshore installation proves how sanctions are not bad news

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)
A massive floating crane is installing the third topside of South Pars Phase 13 over the deep-sea jacket in the Persian Gulf.

Iranian companies have installed a 2,500-tonne offshore platform at phase 13 of the world’s largest gas field in the Persian Gulf, in a further testimony to their burgeoning ability to carry out tasks which until recently were an exclusive prerogative of international energy giants.

A massive barge, built by Iran Maritime Industrial Company SADRA, shipped the topside to the South Pars gas field where a giant floating crane erected and fixed it over a deep-sea jacket substructure.

It was the third of four topsides planned at phase 13 of South Pars, with the final structure to be installed in the coming days, operator of South Pars Phase 13 project Payam Motamed told the Ministry of Petroleum’s Shana news outlet.

The two remaining topsides’ substructures such as flare booms, bridges and living quarters will also be shipped and installed soon, after which they will be hooked up to gas wells and production will begin, he said.

The operation of the two platforms will add another 28 million cubic meters per day of refined gas to Iran’s output and raise overall production from phase 13 to 56 million cubic meters per day, Motamed added.

Gas recovery at the two other platforms began last year. The refined gas produced at phase 13 of South Pars is transferred by two pipelines to onshore processing units, 180 kilometers off the wells.

In addition to 56 million cubic meters per day of refined gas, phase 13 has been designed to produce 1.1 million tonnes per year of liquefied gas, 75,000 barrels per day of gas condensates and  400 million tonnes per day of sulphur - all  for export – on top of 1 million tonnes per year of ethane gas to feed Iranian petrochemical plants.

Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh said on Monday Iranian natural gas production capacity will surpass 1 billion cubic meters per day next month.

Iran sits on the world's largest reserves of gas and the fourth largest oil deposits just behind Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Canada, but the development of its energy sector has been bedeviled by sanctions.

The US government has been trying to cripple the sector which is Iran’s biggest hard currency earner in order to force the country to submit to Washington’s demands.  

The dark clouds of the sanctions, however, have had a silver lining for many Iranian companies which have landed major deals in oil, gas and other industries.

SADRA is Iran's largest shipyard group which has turned into an oil and gas behemoth on the fringes of Western sanctions in recent years along with Petropars, another Iranian company specializing in upstream oil and gas exploration, exploitation and production as well as downstream industries.

Petropars was awarded a multibillion-dollar deal to develop phase 11 of South Pars after French oil major Total and the China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) withdrew from the project.

The sanctions have spawned an inward-looking drive in Iran, especially in its oil industry which has gone out of its way to put unprecedented trust in local companies for implementation of some major projects.

Last week, Iran unveiled its first oil rig manufactured by domestic companies, fulfilling a dream which the country’s petroleum industry cherished for long.

Addressing the unveiling ceremony in Ahvaz, Zangeneh explained why building an oil drilling rig is such a big deal, especially at the time of sanctions.  

“The cost of building many factories is less than the cost of building a rig, and building an oil rig is very important,” he said.

“Given the country's capacities, we need drilling equipment and accessories for many years to come, and the construction of a rig in Iran was one of the aspirations of the oil industry which realized today,” the minister added.

Zangeneh has said Iran’s oil, gas and petroleum sectors are on the frontline of the fight against the United States’ “maximum pressure” which President Donald Trump has primarily applied on the oil industry with an express aim of bringing the country’s exports down to zero.

Next month, Iran is about to launch its biggest refinery for processing gas associated with oil production, built by local companies.

The Persian Gulf Bid Boland Gas Refinery in Behbahan is expected to be “the source of a major change in reducing environmental pollution and developing the petrochemical industry”, Zangeneh said this month.

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