Iran total oil loading hits 7-month low in Oct -shipping source
TOKYO/SINGAPORE - Reuters
REUTERS photoIran’s exports of crude oil and condensate dropped to a seven-month low this month, hit by refinery maintenance and a lull in demand ahead of winter, according to an industry source with knowledge of the nation’s tanker loading schedule.
Still, loadings of the light oil condensate grade were robust - the second highest for the year - due to Iran’s attractive pricing relative to other producers, the source said.
Iran this month exported 1.07 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude and condensate, down 13 percent from revised figures in September and the lowest since March, when India and Japan took no oil to stay within sanction limits, said the source who keeps a close watch on the producer’s shipping program.
Asia’s Iranian crude oil imports for the last two years have dipped in October, however, before recovering due to seasonal winter demand, and some industry sources said Chinese loadings are likely to rebound again in the coming months.
Iran’s exports of condensate, a by-product of natural gas output, in October totaled 240,000 bpd, the second-highest this year and down 10 percent from top-month September.
Industry sources attributed the recent high condensate shipments in part to Unipec - the trading arm of Chinese state giant Sinopec - resuming its purchases after laying off the light oil for several months, taking about 1 million barrels each month in September and October.
Regional grades such as Australia’s North West Shelf condensate have also become more expensive and Iranian supply more competitive, industry sources said.
“Iranian condensate is very cheap and we have been paying close attention,” said a source with a North Asian buyer of condensate from Iran’s South Pars gas fields.
To counter competing condensate from Qatar, among others, Iran has offered discounts to retain market share after its crude exports have more than halved from 2.5 million bpd in 2011, sources said.
Officials at state-owned National Iranian Oil Company did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Iranian crude and condensate loadings by Tehran’s main customers - China, India, Japan and South Korea - declined for a third straight month to around 850,000 bpd in October, down 12 percent from September.
The loading figures for this month show purchases well below the roughly 1 million bpd the four have been taking under the Western sanctions targeting Iran’s nuclear program since 2012.
Top buyer China is loading about 400,000 bpd of crude and condensate this month, the lowest in a year.
India, the second-biggest buyer, is cutting October loadings by 20 percent from the previous month to 170,000 bpd; South Korea is lifting about 120,000 bpd, down 13 percent; and Japan is loading about 155,000 bpd, up 17 percent.
Turkey also buys about 100,000 bpd of crude, while the United Arab Emirates takes around 100,000 bpd of condensate.
The United States and the European Union have taken formal steps that will lift sanctions against Tehran possibly early next year once Iran meets the conditions tied to a landmark nuclear agreement with major world powers.
Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, said a lifting of sanctions on Iran could boost its output by 400,000-600,000 bpd within a year.