Statoil, 62.9 per cent owned by the Norwegian government, says it had halted work on the project in western Iran and will cut its involvement as an offshore operator in developing phases 6-8 of the South Pars gas field.

However, a Statoil spokesman says the move was not made as a result of US sanctions pressure.

“It is not the right time for us to invest in the [Iran] market right now. But we have not taken Iran off our [long-term] slate.”

Statoil and Lukoil secured exclusive rights in 2005 to negotiate a development plan for the Anaran field but the Russian firm suspended work in 2007 due to US sanctions (MEED 22:10:07).

The field could produce more than 100,000 barrels a day (b/d), making it one of the largest discoveries in recent years.

Iran says it will now complete the Anaran field on its own but has not given an update on the South Pars development.

“If this company [Statoil] avoids developing this [Anaran] project, Iran will be able to bring this project to fruition using domestic capability,” said Gholamhossein Nozari, Iran’s oil minister on the oil ministry’s website Shana.