Iran’s crude oil exports are set to hit a 14-month low in May, a person with knowledge of the Middle Eastern country’s tanker loading schedule said, suggesting the country is struggling to raise exports after clearing out stocks stored on tankers. Part of the drop may also be attributable to a decline in demand, as loadings bound for India are set to slump to a one-year low after a dispute over the award of a contract for a gas field and Japan’s orders fall by more than half from April. Iran is also putting about 3 million barrels back into storage in May, according to the source, underlining how much oil remains available in the market despite an agreement between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC producers to cut output and boost prices.
Crude oil loadings from Iran are expected to total nearly 1.7 million barrels per day (bpd) in May, with almost 100,000 bpd being put into storage on tankers, according to the source. Loading figures for condensate, an ultra-light crude, were not available for May. In April, the country is expected to export 1.8 million bpd of crude and a little over 370,000 bpd of condensate, down sharply from a six-year high of nearly 2.9 million bpd reached in February for both forms of oil. In March, Iran loaded around 2.6 million bpd a day of both crude and condensate, mostly the former, according to the source. No barrels of either crude or condensate were put in storage in March and April.
The final figures for February exports were significantly higher than preliminary numbers reported earlier by Reuters and show Iran took full advantage of its exemption from the production cuts by OPEC and non-OPEC producers, including Russia. Still, Indian buyers are cutting purchases after state-owned refiners agreed to cut their annual imports deal with Iran by a fifth to put pressure on Tehran to award the Farzad B gas field to an Indian consortium. Crude liftings for India in May are expected to about 370,000 bpd, while in April Indian customers are lifting nearly 470,000 bpd of both crude and condensate. Japan is scheduled to lift nearly 40,000 bpd in May, the lowest since March. Loadings of crude and condensate for China this month are to hit a four-month low of a little over 500,000 bpd.