* Total to stop gasoline sales to Iran if US sanctions start
* Total supplies small amounts of fuel to Tehran now
* Political situation in Iraq no impact on project there
* Total eyes JV with Kuwait in China, oil deals in Kuwait
By Simon Webb
KUWAIT, April 26 French energy giant Total
(TOTF.PA) will cease gasoline sales to Iran if the United States
passes legislation to penalise fuel suppliers to the Islamic
Republic, Total's chief executive said on Monday.
With the U.S. pushing for a fourth round of U.N. sanctions
on Iran over its nuclear work, several of the world's top oil
firms and trading houses have already curbed fuel sales to
pre-empt potential penalisation of their U.S. operations.
Total continued to deliver small amounts of fuel to the
Islamic republic, Christophe de Margerie told reporters on the
sidelines of an industry conference.
"If any laws, or any rules are made in a way that prevents
(us) from doing those things we will stop," he said. "We always
Total has faced political pressure to stop the sales, but
would only do so when officially required, de Margerie said,
although he declined to say who had applied the pressure.
"I've been asked by certain people to reconsider, I say OK,
make it official," he said.
The U.S. and its allies suspect Iran wants to develop
nuclear weapons, while Tehran says it needs nuclear energy to
meet power demand.
Under bills that have passed the U.S. Senate and House of
Representatives, but which must still be combined into one,
companies worldwide which supply gasoline to Iran would be
largely prevented from doing business with the world's top
energy consumer the United States. [ID:nN22197803].
Due to a chronic lack of refining capacity, the world's
fifth-largest crude exporter has to import at least 30 percent
of its gasoline needs -- making it vulnerable to any future
sanctions that could interrupt that vital inflow.
TOTAL IRAQ INVESTMENT
The political situation in Iraq had no impact on the pace of
work at the Halfaya oilfield project, de Margerie said.
"We are working in the spirit of what has been decided by
the existing government and by the rules of the bids," de
Margerie said. "When there will be a new government we will
China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) is the majority
partner in the oilfield project and Total owns an 18.75 percent
stake in the field. The consortium aimed to move ahead apace
with the project, he said.
"Our partners are willing to go quickly and we are
encouraging them to do so," he said.
Iraq, which has the world's third largest oil proven
reserves, signed a final contract earlier this year to develop
Halfaya with CNPC, Total and Malaysian state firm Petronas
Halfaya, in southern Iraq, has estimated reserves of 4.1
billion barrels of oil.
The field could help turn Iraq into one of the world's top
oil producers and earn Iraq billions of dollars it needs to
rebuild after decades of war, sanctions and economic decline.
Total was also in talks with Kuwait over developing a
joint-venture refinery and petrochemical plant in China, de
Several potential schemes were under discussion although
Total would only go ahead with one, he said, declining to give
Kuwait is looking for an international oil firm to join it
and Sinopec in a joint venture to build a 300,000 barrels per
day refinery and petrochemical plant in Zhanjiang. The plant
will involve investment of around $9 billion.
Total was also in talks with Kuwait about technical service
agreements for work on heavy oil projects and in enhanced oil
recovery, de Margerie said.
Total executives held talks with Kuwait on Sunday and de
Margerie's presence in the Gulf Arab country was a signal of the
company's intent, he said.
"We have been, shall we say, sleeping a little bit here," he
said. "There are a lot of things to be done in heavy oil, in
enhancing oil recovery factors in existing fields."
Disputes between Kuwait's government and parliament have
slowed the country's efforts to develop the energy sector, but
in February it signed a 5-year technical service agreement with
Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) to develop gas fields in the
(Reporting by Simon Webb; editing by Michael Hogan)