IEA Says Too Early to Revise Iranian Oil Export Estimate

The International Energy Agency said it was too early to revise its estimate for Iranian oil exports amid speculation that the Persian Gulf nation boosted shipments in December.

Iran’s crude shipments were 1.2 million barrels a day, the Paris-based agency said in a Jan. 18 report, an estimate it won’t be revising until next month, Diane Munro, a supply analyst at the IEA, said in a phone interview today. That’s down from 1.45 million in November. Reuters reported earlier today that Iranian exports rose to 1.4 million barrels a day last month, the highest level since European sanctions began, citing data it compiled from analysts and shipping and customs data.

“With exports close to 1.5 million barrels a day and Brent crude above $110 a barrel Iran does not really care anymore about the sanctions,” Olivier Jakob, managing director of consultants Petromatrix GmbH in Zug, Switzerland, said in a report today. “The export revenues from Iran are now equivalent to exporting at full capacity in a market at $81 and that is far from pushing Iran in a corner.”

Oil sales from Iran, a member of OPEC, tumbled last year as nations halted or reduced imports because of sanctions imposed by the European Union. The embargo, which took full effect in July, punishes the Islamic republic for its alleged efforts to develop nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies.

The Paris-based IEA measures imports from Iran, rather than exports leaving the country. Shipments tumbled to about 1 million barrels a day in July, from 1.74 million in June, the group estimated in August.

June Levels

Even if shipments recover to levels reached in June, they would still fall short of the country’s all-time high. Production was as high as about 6 million barrels a day in 1974, compared with 2.66 million in December, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. In the 10 years ended 2010, output averaged 3.8 million.

Iran shipped 1.88 million barrels of crude a day in May, which was the lowest since April 2002, according to the Joint Organizations Data Initiative. The country hasn’t submitted export data to the Riyadh-based organization since then.

Shipments probably averaged 1.4 million barrels a day in December, according to Jakob.

Bloomberg Survey

The Persian Gulf country may export 1.3 million barrels a day in January, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News using ship-tracking estimates that are based on signals to satellites and shore-based antennae from tankers at Iranian ports, from vessels operated by Tehran-based NITC, and from Japanese tankers that load Iranian cargoes using state-based insurance coverage.

Shipments were 1.2 million barrels a day in December, the Bloomberg survey showed.

A new phase of U.S. sanctions on Iran take effect on Feb. 6, which threaten to exclude importing countries from the U.S. banking system should they send hard currency to Iran in payment for oil. Instead, they must hold payment in local currency escrow accounts, for Iran to purchase goods from within that nation. Iran will become more concerned about repatriation of revenue once the restrictions take effect, Jakob said.

The IEA publishes its next monthly report on Feb. 13.

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