Iran surprises US, observers with spike in oil exports

Iranian exports of crude oil and condensate have surged to levels near before sanctions, surprising market observers and affording the country an important victory in a US “economic war” on Tehran.

Iran exported 1.7 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil in March, the highest since October when shipments fell to 1.08 million bpd, data from shipping sources compiled by S&P Global Platts showed.

According to the energy and commodities information provider, Iran’s exports volumes have recovered by 60% since November, “surprising many on the market.”

That is because November was the month when US President Donald Trump’s most extensive sanctions ever went into effect against Iran’s oil industry.

The explanation could be that some key clients of Iranian oil which had either halted or significantly reduced their shipments before November scrambled to pick up more volumes as Trump decided that month to give waivers to eight importers.

Platts also cited data from geospatial analytics startup Ursa, saying Iran’s crude inventories for exports had fallen by 25% since early January. Kharg Island which is the country’s main export terminal had seen a 30% decline in inventories in March, it said.

“With the US granting exemptions to some of Iran’s biggest customers, exports seem to have fared better than anticipated,” Platts quoted Geoffrey Craig, an energy analyst at Ursa, as saying.

Iran’s inventories include floating storage where crude and condensates are held on tankers in the Persian Gulf. The drawdown of floating storage and other inventories means Iran is likely to ramp up production.

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