Exxon Deploys More Sanction Watchers as Iran Nuke Deal Looms

(Bloomberg) -- Exxon Mobil Corp. is ramping up efforts to track U.S. government work on Iranian sanctions that have locked out American oil companies from the Middle Eastern nation for more than three decades.

Exxon, the world’s largest publicly traded crude producer by market value, hired the lobbying firm founded by former Senator Don Nickles, an Oklahoma Republican, to monitor activity related to Iranian sanctions, according to federal disclosure documents. This is the first time since 2010 that the Irving, Texas-based oil company enlisted outside lobbyists to discuss Iran.

Western energy companies are eager to tap Iranian fields that are among the biggest and cheapest to exploit in the world, said Morningstar Inc.’s Allen Good. Iran nationalized oil production in the 1970s. Sanctions imposed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and later over the country’s nuclear ambitions have kept the country largely off-limits to American firms. Iran is home to the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves and second-biggest cache of natural gas.

“Given sanctions and the dilapidation of oilfields over time, it looks like it’d be a lot of work” for foreign companies to revive production, said Good, a Chicago-based analyst at Morningstar. “But unlike Iraq, you’d don’t have a civil war going on so it’d be an easier path to growing production. You could get a pretty good bump pretty quickly.”

Exxon said the activities Nickles was hired to carry out, disclosed in an April 16 federal “Lobbying Report” filing, fall short of lobbying.

Monitoring Activities

“We are not lobbying on Iran sanctions,” Alan Jeffers, an Exxon spokesman, said during a telephone interview on Thursday. “We are monitoring activities related to Iran in the U.S. government.”

In a statement, Nickles said his firm has represented Exxon for a decade, and would review their lobbying disclosure form to be sure it accurately describes the work they’re doing related to Iran.


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