Oil Giant Total Takes to Twitter to Underscore Iran Commitment
In an unusual move, Total's press office issued a series of tweets on Tuesday in order to correct an apparent mischaracterization of the company's position on its planned USD 4.8 billion gas deal in Iran.
A piece published by CNN Money on Tuesday, and later echoed by Reuters, suggested that Total was "rethinking" its comittment to Iran in light of the company's large presence in the U.S. and President Trump's opposition to the Iran deal. The piece centered on comments made to CNN Money on the sidelines of an energy conference in Abu Dhabi, with Total CEO Patrick Pouyanné stating that "If there is a sanctions regime [on Iran], we have to look at it carefully... We work in the U.S., we have assets in the U.S., we just acquired more assets in the U.S."
But a series of tweets from Total's official press office account have since sought to dispel the idea that there has been any change in the company's policy towards Iran. The tweets explain how the comments made by Pouyanné are consistent with those made in several interviews since Trump's de-certification of the JCPOA Iran Deal.
Total's response clarifies that the company remains committed to its project in Iran's South Pars gas field and draws attention to an earlier interview in which Pouyanné stated he does not see a political barrier to conducting business in Iran. That Total is continuing to push ahead on its Iranian project demonstrates considerable resolve, especially given the company's extensive operations in both the United States and Saudi Arabia, two countries whose governments largely oppose Iran's economic opening. Indeed, the company has recently moved to more directly manage political risks by opening an office in Washington.
Pouyanné's comments to CNN Money do however raise the possibility that the United States will reimpose secondary sanctions, which would penalize non-U.S. entities for conducting business with Iran. Such a "snapback" scenario would compel nearly all European multinational firms, including Total, to pull back from the market. Total, like many other companies, is simply waiting to see what legal approach Congress is likely to take. Pouyanné told CNN, "We are working on the project. We launched the tenders, we should award contracts by January... I hope by that time, Congress will have an answer for the president and the president will have to renew, or not [renew], the certification."
Encouragingly, it remains unlikely that Congress will opt for snapback, which would constitute withdrawal from the JCPOA. Total's landmark deal still seems poised to open a new era of energy investment in Iran.
Photo Credit: IRNA