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How Iran might win the Middle East oil game

With much of the Middle East and North Africa in a static state of upheaval, Iran could be the unlikely winner of the post-Arab Spring energy prize, Graeber writes.

By Daniel J. GraeberGuest blogger / October 8, 2013

An Iranian oil technician checks the oil separator facilities in Azadegan oil field, near Ahvaz, Iran.

Vahid Salemi/AP/File

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Instability in Libya and other parts of North Africa may be giving international investors the jitters. In August, U.S. energy explorer Apache Corp. said it had enough of the political upheaval in Egypt and  sold a portion of its assets there to its Chinese counterpart, Sinopec. In neighboring Libya, Exxon and Royal Dutch Shell said they'd had enough of the unrest, though Italy's Eni and Spain's Repsol weren’t so squeamish. To the west, in Algeria, while BP and Statoil remained resilient, BG Group and ConocoPhillips said they'd take their business elsewhere. With much of the region in a static state of upheaval, Iran could be the unlikely winner of the post-Arab Spring energy prize.

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Apache Corp. in August said it was handing over some of its oil and gas business in Egypt to Sinopec. One revolution and two years of political instability later and the U.S. energy explorer said it was focusing its efforts on North America, where business is booming. Though oil production is on the road to recovery in Libya, that may be too little too late for Exxon and Royal Dutch Shell, who said the national security situation in the post-revolutionary climate made it tough to justify the effort. Meanwhile, Norwegian major Statoil said it was resolved to continue work in Algeria despite the January attacks on the Ain Amenas natural facility. That attack was attributed to militants who spilled over from Libya, giving some of Statoil's European counterparts cause for concern.

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