Tanker tracking firms say Iran’s oil exports recovered in August and September — but they differ sharply on how significant the rebound is.
Since April 2018, when Tehran exported about 2.5 million barrels per day, Iranian oil sales have collapsed by up to 95% amid comprehensive US sanctions. The decline has ravaged the Government’s budget, which relies on oil income for one-third of revenues, and added to problems with production, trade, investment, and a historically-weak currency.
The export estimates of the three tracking firms for September ranged from 400,000 to 1.5 million bpd, reflecting the difficulties in following shipments as Iran and its purchasers try to evade sanctions.
The range for August’s exports was 300,000 bpd to 750,000 bpd.
Adding to the mystery, the final destinations of the exports are unknown, with almost half of the oil picked up by foreign vessels via ship-to-ship transfers.
Almost all of Iran’s known oil exports go to China. Even in that case, claims of secret Iranian shipments put the actual level in question.
Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh admitted last week that oil documents were forged to hide the origin of Iranian cargoes: “What we export is not under Iran’s name. The documents are changed over and over, as well as specifications.”
Desperate for funds, the Government promised an “economic breakthrough” this summer through oil sales on the domestic Energy Exchange and marketing of oil bonds to the public. But the plan collapsed because of objections from Parliament and the judiciary.
The Iranian currency, already at an all-time low, plunged further this morning to 292,000:1 v. the US dollar.
The rial has dropped from 45,000:1 — already a low point for the Islamic Republic — in April 2018 and 150,000:1 in March. It passed 250,000:1 on September 8 and 275,000:1 on Wednesday.