7 November Gulf News

Air BP in talks for Iran project


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Jet fuel supplier Air BP is eyeing prospects in Iran, even as it is in the process of finalising major initiatives in Sanaa, confirmed Timothy Bingham, general manager.

The company is already working with the authorities in Egypt. "Our feasibility study on the Sanaa project has been accepted in principle, and we are now in the process of setting out the details of our partnership agreement with the airport authorities." He reiterated the project is high on the company's agenda, but accepted that recent events might have an effect on when implementation would begin.

On the Iran project, negotiations with the authorities are close to being sealed, but the official declined to offer further details. He also acknowledged ongoing global tensions have impacted on its operations "less in this region than in the U.S. and Europe", but stressed: "We will ensure we retain our capability to fuel our growth ambitions in the Middle East."

He pointed out that jet fuel output of around 4 million barrels per day had to be scaled down this year. "Air travel had anyway been showing a downtrend even before September 11, but the momentum picked up perceptibly after this. "Hence jet fuel demand plunged 25 per cent in the U.S. immediately after the event. The demand tailoff has been less in the Middle East, at 8-10 per cent."

Anecdotal evidence from the Gulf War suggested air travel growth would perk up immediately after the resolution of any crisis: "While passenger demand globally fell 5 per cent immediately after Iraq invaded Kuwait, and remained low for a year thereafter, it shot up 12 per cent immediately after Kuwait was liberated." He however pointed out the situation now is still fluid: "We are in wait-and-see mode, but will take no decision that might compromise growth plans in the region."

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