Iran has suspended a $16bn gas field contract with China’s National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) to push the development of the South Pars field, according to the Mehr news agency.

CNPC’s work on the offshore South Pars field has fallen behind schedule, with only 10 per cent of the work completed, instead of the envisaged 17 per cent, the state-owned Pars Oil and Gas Company said last week.

The reservoir is shared with Qatar, which is depleting it though its massive production capacity in its North Field.

The Chinese company has not started work on its $5bn project in South Pars, prompting the state gas company to put a stop to the development of the North Pars field, which lies entirely in Iranian waters.

“The development contract for North Pars (field) with the Chinese is temporarily suspended,” Mehr quotes the managing director of the Pars Oil and Gas Company Moussa Souri.

“Right now, the priority is developing the shared oil and gas fields, especially South Pars,” he said, adding that CNPC’s North Pars deal “hinges on their activities in the development of South Pars’ Phase 11”.