Members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries decided Wednesday to maintain their production targets at 30 million barrels per day, but Iran, heartened by an opening with the West that will test the waters of eased sanctions, said it wants U.S. help to get the taps open.
Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said Iran will pump as much oil as it can once Western sanctions on oil exports are lifted -- which could drive down global prices.
Before entering the OPEC meeting in Vienna, Zanganeh mentioned American and European oil companies as favorites to work in Iran to help pump out more than double its current amount.
“We have no technical difficulties to expand our exports and return to 4 million barrels a day output,” he told reporters before the meeting.
He named the American Chevron Corp. (NYSE:CVX) and ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP), as well as European companies Total SA, Royal Dutch Shell, Statoil and BP, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
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All of these companies have made forays into Iran but were halted by their respective governments -- the American companies in the 1990s and the European ones in 2010.
“We have no limitations for U.S. companies,” he said.
The announcement comes on the heels of an agreement last month between Iran and the P5+1 -- the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France (the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council) with the addition of Germany.
The deal involves Iran ceasing production of near-weapons-grade uranium and turning over its stockpile of fissile material that can be used in nuclear weapons.
In return, the country will be relieved of some Western sanctions, which officials estimate could translate into about $7 billion in foreign investment.
In 2010, Iran was the second-largest oil producer in the world after Saudi Arabia – producing 2.7 million barrels per day. But after the U.S. embargo began that year, Iranian output has decreased by almost a third, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“Although Iran has been subject to four earlier rounds of United Nations sanctions, these much tougher measures passed by the United States and European Union (in 2012) have severely hampered Iran’s ability to export its oil, which directly affected its production of petroleum and petroleum products,” reads the EIA report.
The agency also reported in April that Iran’s exports reached low levels not seen since the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Revenues dropped 39 percent last year, which resulted in a loss of 27.4 percent of the country’s revenue.