Iran Oil Exports Seen Rising by IEA Even as Sanctions Widen

Iranian oil shipments advanced 13 percent last month even as the U.S. implemented new sanctions against the Persian Gulf country, according to the International Energy Agency.

Imports from Iran rose to 1.28 million barrels a day in February from 1.13 million barrels in January, the Paris-based adviser to 28 oil-consuming nations said in a report today. U.S. rules took effect last month that require importers to pay in local currencies kept in escrow accounts, the agency said.

The U.S. and allies are restricting Iran’s oil exports, the country’s largest source of revenue, to pressure the government in Tehran to stop enriching uranium. Negotiators will meet in Kazakhstan next month to discuss steps toward an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, which the country says is for civilian use while Western governments suspect a military intent.

“The only thing clear is that the current stalemate between Iran and the West is unsustainable,” the IEA said in the report. “Sooner or later, something has to give.”

Iranian exports are still down from an average of 1.5 million barrels a day last year and 2.5 million in 2011, before sanctions intensified, IEA estimates show. The country’s output, once the second-highest in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, also expanded last month, rising 2.6 percent to 2.72 million barrels a day, compared with 3 million barrels a day in 2012, according to the IEA.

Secondhand Tankers

Iran bought secondhand tankers to take oil to China, the IEA said, citing industry reports. The country is also ordering vessels to turn off transponders signaling ships’ locations, destinations and depths in the water, complicating the compilation of exports data, according to the agency.

The shipments estimates are based on import data submitted by nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, information from customs agencies, and news reports for individual countries, the IEA said. Tanker-tracking is the only source of information for the most current month, according to the report.

Exports will average 1.38 million barrels a day in the Iranian fiscal year starting March 21, 2013, the IEA estimates. That’s in line with the government’s budget expecting 1.3 million barrels a day, according to the report. Oil sales once accounted for half of government revenue, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Iran’s net oil export revenue dropped to $64 billion for the first 11 months of 2012, compared with $95 billion for all of 2011, the department’s Energy Information Administration said in a Dec. 21 report.

The U.S. sanctions that took effect in February block Iran from repatriating oil payments, effectively forcing Iran to use the money to buy goods in the importing country, the IEA said. Countries that violate the rules risk being banned from the U.S. financial system, according to the report.

(Updates with Iran’s lost oil revenue in penultimate paragraph.)
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