Iranian oil sails plummet amid US sanctions

From 2.5 million barrels per day of pre-sanctions, it has been reduced to less than one million. Some traditional buyers like Taiwan have blocked trade for "lack of clarity on payments". The Islamic Republic looking for new buyers, but keeps the names hidden.

Tehran (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Iran’s crude oil exports are dwindling for the third month in a row due to US sanctions that came into force last November. This is what emerges from the data provided by industry sources, which confirm the critical situation for the Islamic Republic in search of new buyers.

Oil exports in November fell below one million barrels a day; previously, the average figure was 2.5 million barrels per day. The figure is similar to that of the pre-nuclear era, between 2012 and 2016, when the sanctions of the Obama era were in force, the architect of the opening towards the ayatollahs.

Experts say the collapse in sales which will have a significant impact on the annual budget of the Islamic Republic, is due to the lack of clarity on the quantities that can be bought without incurring American wrath. Only later did Washington grant an exemption for eight traditional buyers, including China, India, Japan and South Korea to prevent a surge in oil prices. However, the provision did not have any concrete effects.

In May, US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed by his predecessor, Barack Obama. The US leader followed this with the toughest sanctions in history against Iran.

The decision had an immediate negative impact on the Iranian economy – noted by studies of  the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – causing a serious drop in oil exports, the main goal of the second part of the sanctions.

According to the latest data provided by industry experts, sales of Iranian oil in December remained below one million daily and there are no elements that indicate a possible growth for the current month. Potential buyers included Taiwan, which blocked purchases due to a "lack of clarity on the payment methods".

Tehran denies the drop in sales and ensures that they have found new buyers without revealing their names. In addition, the overall figure is better (1.35 million barrels per day) if together with crude oil, the sale of condensate is also considered, a variant of oil (lighter).

It should also be added that monitoring Iranian exports from the entry into force of sanctions is more difficult, because many ships switch off localization systems altering the overall figure. Finally, some buyers who had moved away in November seem to have returned; among others there is Turkey, which has resumed imports one month after suspending them at lower than half the price of the period before the sanctions.