Iran’s oil ministry has given a new deadline of 24 May to the UK-Dutch oil major Shell Group and Spain’s Repsol to make a decision on their involvement in the South Pars gas development.

The pair has been given two weeks to make a decision on their investments or face being replaced by local companies.

“The oil ministry has issued an ultimatum to Shell and Repsol and they are expected to make a decision about phases 13 and 14 of South Pars in two weeks’ time,” says Reza Kasaizadeh, head of the National Iranian Gas Export Company, state-run Mehr News Agency reports.

The companies have been in talks with Iran for more than eight years over the development of phases 13 and 14 of the South Pars field, but have been reluctant to move ahead due to political pressure from the US.

So far, Shell and Respsol have avoided previous Iranian deadlines, by conducting small scale engineering studies and surveys while being careful not to exceed the $20m a year threshold for US sanctions (MEED 24:12:09).

The South Pars field contains some 500 trillion cubic feet of gas.