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Iran's crude exports stay subdued in January despite waivers: sources

Reuters  |  LONDON 

By Alex Lawler

LONDON (Reuters) - will see its exports severely curtailed for a third month in January as it is struggling to find new buyers amid fresh U.S. sanctions even though its traditional customers secured waivers, according to tanker data and industry sources.

Iran's exports in November plummeted to below 1 million barrels per day, from regular sales of 2.5 million bpd before sanctions were imposed in May, and taking them back to where they stood during the previous round of sanctions in 2012-2016.

Buyers said plunging exports in November, which will severely hit the Islamic Republic's budget revenues, were caused by a total lack of clarity of what volumes they were allowed to purchase under the new U.S. sanctions.

later gave a fairly generous set of waivers to eight traditional Iranian buyers - including China, India, and - to avoid a rally in prices, but the measure has failed to give a meaningful boost to exports.

According to tanker data and industry sources, Iran's shipments remained below 1 million bpd in December and are unlikely to exceed that level in January despite rising month-on-month.

"In January, I expect a slight uptick in the second half of the month with some Asian lifting resuming," one of the sources said. "For the time being, I am pencilling in around 900,000 bpd for January."

said last year it was not yet buying Iranian despite receiving a waiver because of a lack of a clear payment mechanism.

has said its exports have not declined as much as estimated by the industry because it was selling oil to new buyers. But it declined to disclose them because of a fear of new sanctions.

A restrained level of Iranian shipments would assist the new global push to cut in 2019 led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, from which is exempt, and lend support to

"We are forecasting slightly more than December, but not massive," said a source at another company that monitors Iranian shipments, putting the month-on-month rise at below 50,000 bpd.

Iranian exports are higher if condensate, a type of light oil, is counted as well as crude. Kpler, another company that tracks oil flows, put Iranian crude and condensate exports at 1.35 million bpd in December.

Tracking Iranian exports has become harder since the sanctions began as ships switch off tracking systems, industry sources say, keeping some of the shipments hidden.

According to Refinitiv Eikon data, shipments including condensate plunged to about 650,000 bpd in December, although such figures are probably not counting all the tankers that switch off their AIS tracking signal.

Some buyers that stayed away in November are returning. has resumed imports of Iranian oil after a one-month hiatus in November, reported on Tuesday, at a volume less than half of the pre-sanctions amount.

Shipments were at least 2.5 million bpd in April, the month before U.S. withdrew the from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed sanctions.

has vowed to keep exporting oil despite the U.S. effort to reduce its shipments to zero.

(Graphic by Amanda Cooper; Editing by Susan Fenton)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, January 11 2019. 09:13 IST