‘Buyback is not approved of and finance schemes have also become problematic. We must find new alternatives,’ Vaziri-Hamaneh said at a Tehran conference. ‘But we will definitely have foreign partners in our contracts and strive to find the most economical methods.’

Iran aims to increase oil production capacity to 5.4 million barrels a day (b/d) by 2010 and 7 million b/d by 2015 from 4.2 million b/d now. However, many industry analysts believe production is actually falling because of low investment and a slow response to field depletion. The absence of an oil minister for the past four months has added to these concerns, with no major oil and gas contracts awarded. However, the early December opening of prices on the Aghajari gas reinjection scheme suggests that some bottlenecks are now being lifted (see page 15).

Oil industry feelings about Vaziri-Hamaneh are mixed. On the one hand, there is relief that he has an Oil Ministry background and understands the major issues. On the other, some contractors have expressed concern that he was not seen as a heavy-weight contender until the failure of three earlier candidates and could struggle to impose his authority on Iran’s most important – and politically intense – ministry. Majlis deputies appeared more sanguine about the caretaker than his unsuccessful predecessors and seemed likely to ratify his nomination.