Iran pursuing Greek market interest for refinery, LNG unit

The European Central Bank is expected to reach a decision in October on whether to lift banking restrictions on Iranian capital currently deposited at European banks, which would facilitate the country’s business trading ability in Europe, including a proposal for joint business dealings with ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum).

Currently in Athens on an official visit with these prospects in mind, the head of Iran’s central bank, Valiollah Seif, met yesterday with Hellenic Bank Association officials and is scheduled to hold talks today with his Greek counterpart, Yiannis Stournaras.

Seif will be hoping to gain the support of Greece’s central bank governor ahead of the anticipated ECB decision in Iran’s banking restrictions.

In another meeting yesterday, the Iranian bank chief met with Greek energy minister Panos Skourletis. The two officials discussed the Greek market partnership plans proposed by Iran.

Following up on an initial expression of interest for an equity share of ELPE, Iran has also proposed the co-development, with ELPE, of a new refinery in Greece or an overall upgrade, including a capacity boost, of an existing unit in Thessaloniki. This would serve the crude export interests of NIOC, the state-run National Iranian Oil Company.

As for the natural gas sector, Iran is now ready to begin suppling LNG and is seeking distribution channels and buyers. Iran is interested in supplying LNG to the planned LNG terminal in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, and is also contemplating becoming an equity partner for this facility’s construction and operation.

All these thoughts and plans will remain at a theoretical level if the European banking restrictions on Iran are not lifted. The restrictions have remained in place despite the lifting of western-imposed trade sanctions on Iran last January.

Most European banks have prefered to avoid financing Iranian enterprises. The upcoming US elections and presence of European banks across the Atlantic has influenced their ongoing refusal to do business with Iranian enterprises.