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Iran Intensifies Investment Efforts While Iraq's Exports Increase; But Nigeria's Recovery Is Problem

Iran this week defied critics who think its comeback has peaked by announcing it is in talks with Japan's Mitsui Chemicals andFrance's Total SA to attract $60 billion in foreign investment.

Marzieh Shahdaei, deputy oil minister and head of National Petrochemical Company(NPC), said her company is also negotiating with German, Italian, and Spanish firms for investment: "It's similar to starting a race: they are positioning themselves in the starting blocks so that as soon as the barriers are removed, they can get working."

Investment of this magnitude is a critical component of Iran's goal to be the biggest petrochemical producer in the Middle East: the money is needed to expand and modernize its aging wells, which were already performing below standards prior to the lifting of the economic sanctions.

Also, NPC plans to complete 55 projects (some of which were put on hold during the sanctions era) and set up 28 new production facilities in order to increase its annual output capacity to 150 million metric tons this year, thus paving the way for further foreign investment.

If this activity results in one or more countries doing business with the Islamic Republic, it would prove wrong the prediction of critics suchDaniel Yergin, vice chairman of IHS Inc., who last month mused that since many U.S.sanctions are still in place, "Companies are going to be very cautious about making new commitments to Iran; no one wants to run afoul of U.S. sanction law."

Not to be outdone, Iraq's oil exports in the first 21 days of July have averaged 3.28 million barrels per day (bpd), according to loading data, which is up from 3.18 million bpd in June – this despite a pipeline leak that temporarily suspended loadings at two southern terminals.

Even though Iraq's 2016 growth is expected to be slower than the 500,000 bpd boost in production it achieved last year, an industry source told Reuters that loading delays and other factors have given the country "an incentive to try and catch up."

Meanwhile, it looks like Nigeria, which of late had tackled its production problems and minimised its export declines far more effectively than critics thought possible, will not be following Iran or Iraq on the comeback trail anytime soon.

Although Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari said on Thursday his administration is negotiating with the rebels through oil companies and security agencies to end the militant attacks that have reduced daily output by 800,000 barrels, the Niger Delta Avengers wrote on its website that the "truth is that we are not aware of any peace talks.

"The president knows our demands, so [he] should stop deceiving the international oil companies, the general public, and the international community."

Nigeria's woes notwithstanding, Iran and Iraq's aggressive stance will likely mean more product on an oversaturated market that has resulted in Brent and West Texas Intermediary losing ground throughout the week and caused Pete Donovan, a broker at Liquidity Energy, to remark that "The market is technically weak, inventories are still high for summer, maintenance season is not far off, and we have floating barrels at sea to top it all."

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