Iran is preparing to formally open up its economy to Western investment, a prospect that has drawn the attention of the world's biggest oil companies. But Tehran may have more difficulty reviving its oil and natural gas sector than it hopes. On Sept. 24, the organizers of the Iran Oil and Gas Summit announced that the event would be delayed until February 2016. Originally set for Dec. 14-16, the London conference is important because it will officially mark the start of Iran's economic reintegration with the rest of the international community. At the summit, Iran plans to unveil the final draft of its new petroleum contract, which is expected to lay out significantly more attractive investment terms for international oil companies than seen in previous models.
The conference, delayed for the fourth time, will now align more closely with the expected timetable for the easing of sanctions outlined in the Iranian nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, released in July. According to that schedule, sanctions will probably be lifted sometime during the first quarter of 2016. Because the sanctions have prohibited Western companies from participating in Iran's oil and natural gas sector for several years, their removal is key to Iran's goal of bringing its production and exports back online. But even if the West eases sanctions and Iran successfully attracts the interest of major international energy companies, as will likely happen, Tehran will struggle to meet its long-term goal of producing 6 million barrels of oil per day.