Iran, Russia agree to joint natural gas venture

Iran and Russia agreed to establish an energy venture as the countries seek new markets for their natural-gas reserves, equal to more than 40 percent of the world’s total.

Iran “reached an agreement with Gazprom to form a joint company with the participation of a third country,” Oil Minister Gholamhossein Nozari was quoted as saying by the official Shana news agency after a Tehran meeting Tuesday with OAO Gazprom Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller.

The Persian Gulf country, holder of the world’s second- largest gas reserves after Russia, has yet to construct facilities for super-cooling the fuel into a liquid form capable of being shipped by tanker to overseas markets. Gazprom, Russia’s state-run gas exporter, wants to help Iran develop liquefied natural gas production, Nozari said.

Nozari, who didn’t name the third country in the venture, said Miller would visit Iran within two months to sign the accord.

Russia and Iran have discussed establishing a cartel of the world’s largest gas producers similar to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and Nozari renewed calls Tuesday for the group to be set up.

“Gas producers and the countries that own gas resources should reach a compromise to establish a gas OPEC,” the minister said, according to Shana. “The ground is being prepared for that end.”

Gazprom agreed to help Iran develop “two or three” blocks of the South Pars gas field, Gazprom said Tuesday, and its oil unit, OAO Gazprom Neft, will produce crude in OPEC’s second- largest producer after Saudi Arabia. Gazprom has been involved in “predevelopment” of South Pars since 1997 with France’s Total SA, according to the Russian company’s Web site.