Iran’s exports of crude oil are soaring higher than expected as customers use US waivers to increase purchases, Reuters has reported citing new tanker data.
According to Refinitiv Eikon data, shipments are averaging 1.25 million barrels per day (bpd) in February after between 1.1 and 1.3 million bpd were exported in January, higher than first thought.
Reuters said energy experts had predicted Iranian crude exports would stay below 1 million bpd last month, a similar rate to that in December.
The news agency cited a source at a company that tracks Iranian exports as saying that shipments in the first 10 days of February were above 1.1 million bpd and on a rising trend.
Iran’s main customers are in Asia. On Tuesday, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the country’s refiners imported $101.2 million in Iranian crude last month.
The imports were the first in five months after South Korean companies stopped buying Iranian crude oil in September, two months before the United States imposed new sanctions on Tehran.
South Korea is one of the eight countries allowed in November by US President Donald Trump to continue buying Iranian oil for six months.
Earlier this month, Iran’s Minster of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh said Asian customers of Iranian oil were steady in taking supplies from the country but the Europeans were refusing to buy any.
“No European country is buying oil from Iran except Turkey,” he told a news conference in Tehran. “Greece and Italy have been granted exemptions by America, but they don’t buy Iranian oil and they don’t answer our questions.”
Analysts have said the United States is likely to extend waivers from sanctions in May but will reduce the number of countries receiving them to placate top buyers China and India.
China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey are likely to be given waivers after they expire in May, Reuters cited US-based analysts at Eurasia Group as saying last month. That would remove Italy, Greece and Taiwan from the current waivers list.
According to Amos Hochstein, the former international energy envoy who ran Iran sanctions under the Obama administration, the real reason Trump is giving the waivers is because he is unable to force the biggest customers of Iranian oil to stop buying oil from the country.
“There will 100 percent be exemptions in May,” Hochstein said, adding Trump’s refusal to do so would raise the prospect of the US sanctioning Chinese and Indian companies and getting embroiled in yet another trade dispute.