Iran’s Oil Minister has put out the dramatic — and somewhat misleading — claim that oil exports have surged to almost 3 million barrels per day.
Bijan Zangeneh said on Saturday that the exports of crude oil and condensate averaged 2.8 million bpd in the months leading to the new Iranian year that began March 20.
“The pace of growth in Iran’s crude oil production and exports has amazed international observers who did not think Iran could raise its production by 1 million barrels per day within three to four months after the removal of sanctions,” Zangeneh said.
Under strict US and European sanctions from 2012, Iran’s oil exports fell from 2.2 million bpd to below 800,000 barrels per day at one point. During the negotiations between the interim and final nuclear deals from late 2013 to July 2015, they stood at 1.4 million bpd, and after implementation in January 2016 they soon rose about 40% to just under 2 million bpd.
However, international oil analysts say that — with OPEC capping production and exports in November 2016 — Iran’s sales have remained at about that level, although unnamed sources put the figure at 2.2 million bpd in September. An official in the National Iranian Oil Company said last week that exports were 2.265 million bpd from February 20 until March 20.
During his visit to Moscow on Monday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin announced a cut in output “to stabilize the global energy market and ensure stable economic growth”.
Zanganeh was able to put out an optimistic portrayal by including condensate in his statement. A light oil often produced with natural gas and used for petrochemical production, condensate is excluded from OPEC supply quotas.
Industry officials said in early October that Iran’s oil-plus-condensate export level was 2.8 million bpd, the same figure given by the Oil Minister on Saturday.
They noted that output was unlikely to rise farther because of limits on technology in its oilfields.
“Iran cannot produce much more than the present, so around 3.7 million bpd may be the max,” said Fereidun Fesharaki, chairman of the consultancy FGE.
With the economy the leading issue in May’s Presidential election, the Rouhani Government is keen to show the increase in oil production and exports as part of recovery since they took office in 2013.