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China to take lead in Iran gas field as Total pulls out amid sanctions

State-owned China National Petroleum Corp. is expected to take the lead from France's Total SA in a $5 billion project to develop Iran's share of the world's biggest gas deposit, Bloomberg News reported Aug. 12.

Mohammad Mostafavi, investments and business head of the National Iranian Oil Co., told the Islamic Republic News Agency that CNPC will take over developing Phase 11 of the South Pars Gas field, Bloomberg reported.

Iran, which holds the world's largest natural-gas reserves, shares South Pars, also known as the North Dome field, with Qatar.

CNPC, which joined a consortium with Total and Iran's Petropars Ltd. in 2016 to develop Phase 11 of the South Pars Gas field, is set to increase its stake in the project from the current 30%, said Bloomberg.

Total had originally agreed to take a 50.1% interest but stopped operations after U.S. President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran. Trump also said anyone doing business with Iran will not be doing business with the U.S.

Terms of the agreement have not officially changed, according to Shana, the Iranian oil ministry's news service. CNPC and Total both declined to comment.

Total said it had already spent some 40 million euros on the project, Bloomberg reported.

CEO Patrick Pouyanne said July 7: "Within the U.S. legal framework, we can't work in Iran. It's impossible for a company like ours, and for most or even all global companies, even maybe the Chinese. Our partners haven't told us yet that they will take over our stake in our project."