September 30, 2023

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Iranian oil exports to China triple despite sanctions

TEHRAN – Iran’s oil shipments to China have more than tripled over the past three years despite the U.S. sanctions on the country and the increase in Russia’s shipments to the Asian country, data released by data analytics firm Kepler showed.

Based on the mentioned data, Iranian crude exports to its major trade partner have been hovering around one million barrels per day (bpd) in 2023, while the figure was roughly 325,000 bpd in 2020.

The Islamic Republic’s oil shipments to China have been following an upward trend since 2019 so that in 2021 the exports reached 585,000 bpd and in 2022 the figure stood at 766,000 bpd.

Also, the International Energy Agency (IEA) in a recent report titled “Oil 2023” confirmed Iran’s daily export of one million barrels of oil to China, saying: “Despite severe financial restrictions, Iran managed to increase its crude oil production by about 140,000 barrels per day in 2022 to an average of 2.5 million barrels per day. It seems that Tehran has maintained its crude sales to China, which has been around one million barrels per day since the third quarter of last year.”

According to official data, Iranian oil production also increased in the current year so that in May the country’s oil output reached 2.9 bpd, 350,000 bpd more than in 2022.

Back in April, Bloomberg reported that “Chinese private refineries are buying more Iranian oil despite the rising competition for supplies from Russia.”

“So-called teapots are prioritizing the flows, with Russian supplies getting more pricey as mainstream buyers such as state-owned Chinese refiners and Indian processors take a greater share,” the report read.

In March, China’s imports of Iranian crude and condensate jumped 20 percent month-on-month to 800,000 barrels a day, and are on track to extend gains in coming months, Emma Li, an analyst with data intelligence firm Vortexa Ltd told Bloomberg that month.

While Iranian oil has long been sanctioned by the US, refiners in China have proved to be a consistent outlet.

Most Iranian oil used to go to state-owned refineries but “the private refiners in Shandong especially are now running the show,” said Homayoun Falakshahi, senior crude oil analyst at Kpler.

Earlier this year, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said that the oil and gas sector experienced a growth of nine percent in the past Iranian calendar year 1401 (ended on March 20).

Oil Minister Javad Oji has also said recently that a new record high will be reached in the country’s oil export in the current Iranian calendar year.

Despite the negative impacts of the U.S. sanctions, Iran has been ramping up its oil production and exports over the past few months.

In his remarks in November 2022, President Raisi highlighted the failure of the enemy’s policy of maximum pressure, saying the country’s oil export has reached the pre-sanction levels.

Back in January, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) in a report put Iran’s average oil production in 2022 at 2.54 million bpd, 140,000 bpd more than the previous year.

Iran’s oil production in 2021 was about 2.4 million bpd.


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