OPEC's Motto: Shhhhh! Don't Mention the 'S' Word

By Platts  JUL 13, 2012 1:30 PM

What ban on Iranian oil?


OPEC published its latest monthly oil market report on July 11. Anyone reading it might expect to find some mention of the fact that one of its members, Iran, is now under two sets of sanctions which threaten not only its oil exports but also, ultimately, the volume of crude it produces.

But there was no mention of the European Union ban on the import of Iranian oil which came into full force on July 1 and which directly affects some 500,000 b/d, or of the EU ban on provision of insurance for shipments of Iranian oil, which reaches far beyond Europe.

Nor was there mention of new US sanctions which came into force on June 28 and which threaten to bar from the US financial system banks of countries continuing to to do oil-related business with Iran's central bank -- unless they reduce their oil volumes from Iran significantly. Washington has already given 180-day waivers from the sanctions to Tehran's top Asian importers for having pledged or shown evidence of lower purchases of Iranian oil. These countries include Japan, India, South Korea, and China.

So for any assessment of the impact of sanctions on Iranian oil production and exports we have to look elsewhere.

The US Energy Information Administration said in its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook on July 10 that it expected Iranian crude oil production to fall by 1 million b/d by the end of this year from about 3.6 million b/d at the end of 2011, and to drop by a further 200,000 b/d next year.

It also said other OPEC producers were likely to make up for the forecast drop in Iranian production.

The International Energy Agency's slightly less pessimistic forecast sees Iranian crude output capacity falling to 2.67 million b/d next year from an average level of 3.24 million b/d in 2012 if the EU and US sanctions are not lifted.

The agency estimates Iran's output at 3.2 million b/d in June, considerably higher than the EIA's 2.9 million b/d and OPEC's secondary sources-derived number of 2.963 million b/d. It says that the plunge in volumes reported by industry sources is not supported by shipping data. Indeed, the IEA says, tanker reports show that China led a rebound in imports of Iranian oil in June. The data, which the IEA points out is preliminary, suggests that China may have taken as much as 810,000 b/d of Iranian crude in June, some 300,000 b/d more than in May. China will publish detailed import data for June later this month.

July could be a different matter, the IEA continues. It says China reportedly had planned to lift 500,000 b/d of Iranian oil next month for delivery on NITC ships but balked at the Iranian shipper's pricey freight charges.

This article was written by Margaret McQuaile and originally appeared on Platts' The Barrel.
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