SINGAPORE/TOKYO: Iran’s crude sales are on track to hit the lowest in seven months in October, according to a source with knowledge of its preliminary shipping plans, showing how Tehran is struggling to boost oil exports even after reaching a landmark nuclear deal.
The weaker sales come despite offers of price discounts to stimulate purchases by Asian buyers as Iran tries to regain market share lost to rivals such as Saudi Arabia over the last 3-1/2 years of Western sanctions.
September and October loadings – for arrivals mostly in October and November – indicate purchases by Iran’s main buyers in Asia are set to fall a third consecutive month, hit by refinery turnarounds and projections for mild winter weather.
China, the biggest buyer of Iranian oil, is taking the lowest volumes in about a year.
The drop counters expectations that Iran’s exports would rise after Tehran and six world powers reached a nuclear agreement on July 14, although the sanctions are unlikely to be officially relaxed until next year.
The sanctions – aimed at persuading Iran to discuss curbs to its nuclear program – cut Tehran’s exports by more than half and cost it billions of dollars a month in lost sales.
Iran’s crude exports, excluding condensate, are set to fall to around 830,000 barrels per day (bpd) this month, down 14 percent from revised figures for September and the lowest since March, according to the source. India and Japan did not load any Iranian oil in March to hold shipments within sanction limits.
China plans to lift about 370,000 bpd this month, down nearly 10,000 bpd from updated September loadings.
China will also lift around 33,000 bpd of condensate – an ultra light crude that Iran produces from its gas fields – between September through to next March, another industry source has said.
That would put China’s total crude and condensate purchases this month at around 400,000 bpd, the lowest since the 340,000 bpd that arrived from Iran in October 2014.
India, Iran’s second-biggest buyer, is set to cut its October loadings by 20 percent to around 170,000 bpd from the previous month.
In contrast, Japan and South Korea are lifting around 100,000 bpd and 80,000 bpd, an increase of 10 percent and 20 percent, respectively, from September.
Iran’s four Asian buyers are set to load about 720,000 barrels in October, down 12 percent from September.
Turkey is also lifting around 110,000 bpd, the source said, with about 100,000 bpd going into offshore storage over September and October.