Saudi Arabia readies to boost supplies over Iran oil sanctions. Analysts expect Iranian exports of some 2.5 million barrels per day to plunge by 1-2 million bpd when US sanctions take effect November 5. With Washington poised to curtail Iran’s oil exports, OPEC heavyweight Saudi Arabia and its partners stand ready to ramp up supplies even as market conditions remain uncertain, analysts say.
The renewal of sanctions on the Islamic republic comes at a time of major supply disruptions in several producer nations and as US President Donald Trump aims to prevent an oil price hike. Analysts expect that Iran’s oil exports, which reach around 2.5 million barrels per day in normal times, to plunge by one million to two million bpd when sanctions take effect on November 5.
That is expected to strain an already tight market. Outages in Libya, Venezuela, Nigeria, Mexico, Angola and others forced OPEC and non-OPEC producers in June to abandon an agreed cut in output and boost supplies. “We are entering a very crucial period for the oil market,” the International Energy Agency said in a September report. “Things are tightening up.”
Saudi Arabia is the only producer with significant spare capacity of around two million bpd that can be tapped into to compensate for the loss of Iranian supplies. Even as relations soured between the West and Riyadh over the murder of the Washington Post contributor, Saudi Arabia said it had no plans to wage a retaliatory oil embargo.
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said his country, which raised output by 700,000 bpd to 10.7 million bpd in October, was prepared to further bump up production to 12 million bpd. “We have sanctions on Iran and nobody has a clue what Iranian exports will be,” he told the Russian news agency Tass last week.
In addition, there are potential declines in Libya, Nigeria, Mexico and Venezuela, he said, also pointing to uncertainty over US shale oil production. Falih said the kingdom could turn to its huge strategic reserves of around 300 billion barrels to meet global demand. Anas al-Hajji, a Houston-based oil expert, said the fall in Iranian exports was tough to assess but he expected “less than what most analysts are talking about.”
“The Iranians have perfected their game working under sanctions. There will be a black market for Iranian crude,” Hajji told AFP. Saudi Arabia’s neighbors the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait can also raise their output by up to 300,000 bpd if needed. ‘It’s unsustainable’Kuwaiti oil expert Kamel al-Harami said he doubts Riyadh can sustain production of 12 million bpd for a prolonged period.
OPEC is constrained by low spare capacity in a tight market under threat from unplanned outages, low investment and unpredictable geopolitical unrest. Iranian officials are betting on the unstable market conditions to beat US sanctions.
“Mr. Trump both tries to decrease Iran’s oil exports significantly and also wants prices not to go up. These two can’t happen together,” Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said late September. Tehran sold oil to private buyers through its energy exchange for the first time on October 28, as part of efforts to counter the imminent return of sanctions.
Some estimates show Iran’s crude exports have already dropped by a third since May with even companies from traditional clients China and India abandoning purchases. Oil prices which rebounded from under $30 a barrel in early 2016 to a four-year high of over $86 a barrel in early October have fallen to around $75 due to fears of weaker global demand.
More News On Crude Oil Markets – Thousands of Iranians chanting “Death to America” rallied on Sunday to mark the anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. Embassy during the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Students attending the government-organized rally in the capital Tehran, broadcast live by state television, burned the Stars and Stripes, an effigy of Uncle Sam and pictures of President Donald Trump outside the former embassy compound.
Hardline students stormed the embassy on Nov. 4, 1979, soon after the fall of the U.S.-backed shah, and 52 Americans were held hostage there for 444 days. The two countries have been enemies ever since. State media said millions turned out for rallies in towns and cities, swearing allegiance to the clerical establishment and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The figure could not be independently confirmed by Reuters.
Rallies are staged on the embassy takeover anniversary every year. But rancour is especially strong this time following Trump’s decision in May to withdraw from world powers’ 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimpose sanctions on Tehran. The deal brought about the lifting of most international financial and economic sanctions in return for Tehran curbing its disputed nuclear activity under U.N. surveillance.
Trump said the deal was weak and favored Iran. The other signatories – Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – remain committed to the accord. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the penalties set to return on Monday “are the toughest sanctions ever put in place on the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Interviewed on “Fox News Sunday,” Pompeo said, “There’s a handful of places where countries already have made significant reductions in their crude oil exports and need a little more time to get to zero. And we’re going to provide that to them.” He did not elaborate. Pompeo noted that oil sanctions would be coupled with financial sanctions involving “over 600 designations of individuals and companies in Iran.”
The Iranian military said it would launch two days of air defense drills on Monday and assured Iranians that it could neutralize any threats, the state news agency IRNA reported. “We can assure our people that the enemy will not be able to carry out its threats against our country,” IRNA quoted Habibollah Sayyari, the coordinating officer, as saying.
Among the anniversary events was an exhibition of cartoons in Tehran called “Donald Salman” – a reference to the close ties between the U.S. president and King Salman, ruler of Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia. “It’s black humor, but the audience can also be brought to reflect on the contradictions in the behavior of Trump and (the royal house of) Al Saud,” artist Masoud Shojaei Tabatabai told state television in Tehran.
The restoration of U.S. sanctions on Monday targeting Iran’s oil sales and banking sector is part of an effort by Trump to force Iran to halt its nuclear and ballistic missile programs outright, as well as its support for proxy forces in conflicts across the Middle East.