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UK allows restart of N. Sea gas field co-owned by Iran

Wednesday, October 23, 2013 - 13:38

Britain lifted a production ban on the huge Rhum North Sea gas field, co-owned by BP and the Iranian Oil Company, to prevent any damage to the environment and the field after it shut in 2010 due to EU sanctions on Iranian firms, Reuters reported.

The energy ministry said on Tuesday it was allowing the restart to prevent permanent damage to the high-pressure, high-temperature field, which was not designed to remain shut permanently.

"The government supports restarting production at Rhum, which is necessary to avoid potential environmental damage and to prevent the possible destruction of the value of the field," the ministry said in a statement.

The Rhum gas field was contributing around 4 percent to UK gas production in October 2010 before its shutdown. It started pumping gas in December 2005 and cost 350 million pounds ($565.6 million) to build.

BP said it was too early to say when production at the field could restart.

"We look forward to receiving final authorisation over the next few weeks, which will enable us to start work towards restarting the field," a BP spokesman said.

EU sanctions against Iranian companies, including the IOC, are still in place, and the UK government said the IOC's revenue from gas sales at Rhum will be placed into a frozen account.

The European Union and United States imposed sanctions on Iranian companies three years ago, alleging that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran says its research has purely peaceful, civilian aims.

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