Data emerging on Wednesday showed Iran’s crude oil exports to China dropped around a quarter in September from a year earlier due to delivery delays by Iranian tankers because of Western sanctions and a cut in condensate imports.
According to data from the General Administration of Customs, China, which is Iran’s top oil customer, bought 1.57 million tonnes of Iranian crude in September, equivalent to about 382,400 barrels per day (bpd), up 3% from 371,000 bpd in August.
China imported 504,000 bpd of Iranian crude in September 2011.
Analysts believe disagreement between China and Iran over contract terms dented imports for the first nine months, totalling just 420,800 bpd, 22% below year-earlier levels.
Industry sources said Sinopec, Asia’s biggest refiner, halted purchases of condensate from Iran’s South Pars field from July through September, partly because of a planned refinery overhaul.
Trade sources also told Reuters imports also declined because Iran’s tanker fleet, the sole transporter of its crude to China since July, has been struggling to meet delivery schedules.
Iran is struggling under tough Western sanctions that are targeting its energy and petrochemical sectors. Reuters report quoted some trading sources as saying that the Islamic Republic has delayed loading of some shipments for September, October and November to China, as a result of the inability of Iran’s shipping fleet to cope with exports.
The delays are further evidence the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) is struggling to meet delivery schedules after a European Union insurance ban caused buyers to cut back on orders, forcing the company to deploy more than half of its tanker fleet to store oil.
Iran’s OPEC governor denied last week its oil exports have declined in recent months. The statement came as a rebuttal to a report released by the International Energy Agency (IEA) that Tehran’s oil income is declining.
The IEA report, released on last Friday, estimated that Iran’s exports hit a new low of 860,000 barrels per day (bpd) in September, a huge plunge from 2.2 million bpd at the end of 2011.