By Haniyeh Sadat Jafariyeh

IRENEX to overcome U.S. petroleum sanctions?

October 31, 2018

Last Sunday on October 28, just few days before new U.S. sanctions on petroleum sector take effect (November 4, 2018), National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) could sell some 280,000 barrels of crude oil at $74.85 per barrel on the first day of offering crude oil for export at the international ring of Iran Energy Exchange (IRENEX). With the daily supply value of one million barrel per day, the market wrapped up by selling eight 35,000-barel-cargos of oil on the day.

IRENEX is founded in an attempt to permit the Iranian private sector export crude oil since Washington aims to cut Iran's oil sales. To foil U.S. sanctions, NIOC decided to let Iranian private companies transparently buy the crude through this market and sell the purchased cargo to foreign customers.
Establishment of IRENEX, which is considered as a turning point in Iran's strategic oil industry and capital market and also a platform for producers and consumers to be in touch and pay lower trade costs in a transparent business environment, can be translated into creation of a new energy stock market that results in economic development.  Absorbing a part of available liquidity and injecting it to production sectors and financing various industries, especially those active in energy sector, it can bring financial discipline and spur domestic production and economic growth.
The energy market is basically exports-oriented and has the capacity to increase Iranian oil customers both domestically and internationally. Price setting relies on the base price determined by NIOC according to global prices. Receiving a trading code, foreign companies can purchase oil cargos from IRENEX. By now, over 100 trading codes have been received by foreign customers at IRENEX which could be used to purchase oil cargoes and oil products. The Securities and Exchange Organization (SEO) preserves the customers’ data from all across the world confidential.
Offering light crude oil at IRENEX has provided Iranian private sector with some attractions:
•    Buyers can easily access and get engaged in purchasing crude oil procedures.
•    As decided, at IRENEX, the payment mechanism was 20 percent in the Iranian rial and the rest in hard currencies. Crude oil applicants have to initially pay 10 percent of the value of the contract in cash and in case their bidding is accepted they must pay another 10 percent also in cash before loading the purchased cargos. Price setting at IRENEX relies on the base price determined by NIOC according to global Brent prices and the total price of a cargo is converted to rial by the Central Bank of Iran’s online Sana system accessible at sanarate.ir, a website that records daily forex trade from across the domestic exchange bureaux. They pay the rest in allowed hard currencies including dollar, yuan, dirham and euro, after loading the cargos.
•    Buyers can offer bank guarantees in rial from banks qualified by NIOC, i.e. Bank Pasargad, Bank Tejarat, Export Development Bank of Iran, Bank Sepah, Bank Saderat, Bank Mellat, Bank Melli Iran, worth 1.25 time of the 80 percent of the total price of the cargo calculated based on the rates at Sana before loading cargos.
•    Crude oil can be delivered in small 35,000-barel-cargos, with acceptable 10 percent error. Purchasers can receive larger crude cargos via buying several small cargos at Kharg Island Oil Terminal off the Persian Gulf.
•    The purchased cargos can be transported and exported freely to all countries across the globe expect the occupied Palestinian territories by the Zionist regime of Israel.
•    The offered oil at IRENEX is light crude oil, which is a well-known and popular type of oil internationally.
•    Base prices and fluctuation rates are limitless. The base price for each barrel of is $79 but the price floor and ceiling can differ according to demand and in a bid to spur competitiveness at the market.
•    Regarding that Mediterranean oil prices are currently lower than the Asian ones for about two dollars, the buyers can make a profit by selling the purchased oil from IRENEX to such regions, although the issue depends on price fluctuations.
However some points of interests can also be discussed about IRENEX:
•    IRNEX has been primarily been created to foil U.S. sanctions’ impact on Iran’s oil sales and guarantee trading physical oil, while the main goal of establishing such capital markets is globally improving a transparent business environment.
•    Oil prices at IRENEX are set by NIOC per month instead of being controlled by international conditions and demand.
•    The base price of $79.15 per barrel, at which the oil cargos were trades on the first day of IRENEX, was higher that Brent prices. Thus, making purchases at this price do not bring buyers a remarkable amount of profit and the issue cannot make the market an attractive one for purchasers. To lure traders to IRENEX, it is vital to make some amendments in cargos’ transportation and insurance costs, as well.
•    The influence of U.S. sanctions on Iran’s and Iranians’ banking transaction and shipping lines should not be neglected when it comes to financial transactions and money transfer issues between IRENEX and its foreign customers or transportation of oil cargos from Kharg oil terminal via oil tankers to different destination across the world.
The next date of offering crude oil at IRENEX has not been announced yet and the new decisions about continuing selling export-grade crude oil at stock market and some other details in this regard would rely on the made assessments and the gained experiences from offering oil on October 28.
Regarding the unilateral U.S. embargo posed on Iran and the limited chance provided for experts to evaluate IRNEX’s capabilities and weaknesses, the time is not rape to judge the practicality and efficiency of the energy stock market.
It does not seem fair to compare IRNEX with its foreign rivals since the aim of its establishment (circumventing sanctions) and its operating conditions differ from its competitors.
What IRNEX is expected to gain is not achievable overnight and should not be regarded as the mere leverage in deterring U.S. sanctions. To shoulder U.S. pressures on Iran’s oil sale, the market initially needs time to get experienced with attracting both domestic and foreign customers via improving its business environment and getting as transparent as possible. It is essential for the market to remain stainless from corruption and rent-seeking.
HJ/MA

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