By Ebrahim Fallahi

Have Iranian oil exports really fallen to 100,000 bpd?

August 4, 2019

TEHRAN - Recently some reports have been published by ship tracking companies and industry sources regarding Iranian oil exports in July which have put the county’s shipments at near 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) in the mentioned month.

Although the reported figure is just one among numerous speculations on the Islamic Republic’s oil exports in the months following the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions amid the country’s silence policy regarding the amount of its crude shipments, however it raises the question that how much really the country’s oil exports have been in recent months.

Many experts and analysts believe that estimating the exact level of Iranian exports is not possible for the time being since the country has stopped reporting its production figures to OPEC and it is exporting some of its oil under the radar.

In this article, we will take a look at what the news agencies, industry sources and tracking data companies have been claiming about Iran’s oil exports and in the end I will once again raise the question of “how real these claims could be?” and hopefully you will be able to answer that question.

Numbers and speculations

As I mentioned earlier, since the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions in November 2018, there has been great discrepancy among industry experts and analysts on the actual volume of Iran’s crude exports. 

On July 30, Reuters reported that Iran’s July crude oil exports have fallen to 100,000 bpd, citing anonymous industry sources.

In the same month, Refinitiv Eikon, which is another data tracking company, put Iran’s crude shipments including gas condensate (which is a type of light oil) at 120,000 bpd.

Sara Vakhshouri, an analyst at SVB Energy International, a consulting firm based in Washington and Dubai, put the country’s oil exports at between 225,000 and 350,000 bpd in July.

The mystery of Iran's daily crude exports becomes more complex when some other industrial sources raise the figures even more.

Kepler, believes that “Iran had loaded 417,000 bpd of crude and condensate onto tankers in July, down 115,000 bpd from June.”

Distancing hugely from other sources, TankerTrackers put Iran’s oil exports in the mentioned month at between 500,000 bpd-1,000,000 bpd in an email to Reuters.

As you can see, the figures announced for Iran's daily crude exports in July, though not similar, at least do not confirm Reuter anonymous source’s 100,000 bpd.

A yardstick for more clearance

Considering all these various estimations, and with regard to the ambiguity of the real amount of Iran’s oil exports, how can we now which estimation is closer to the truth, or better to say, which one is further from reality.

One rational yardstick in this situation is the price of crude grades similar to Iranian oil, to see how they have fluctuated in the past few months.

Normally, when a crude grade falls short of the demand level, the prices for similar grades surge since the refineries which are set to process that specific grade would have to get their crude from those similar sources and consequently the market gets more competitive.

So it is logical to conclude that if Iranian crude exports had actually fallen to the 100,000 bps which the Reuters source claims, most probably it must have imposed a shift to the market of similar grades in the region.

For instance, as Russel puts it, considering Basra Heavy, a crude similar to much of Iran’s output, indicates that although this grade has outperformed the benchmark light crude, the rise is not that significant. 

This means that such grades’ refining customers in Asia have not been trying to secure alternative supplies to those from Iran.

Overall, from what we have seen in this article, one can conclude that although Iran’s crude oil exports have fallen in the months after the U.S. ended its waivers for buyers of Iranian oil, but estimating the exact number is not easy to achieve.

However, it is also clear that number like 100,000 bpd does not seem to be the real amount of Iran’s oil exports.

EF/MA

Leave a Comment

3 + 12 =