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    Oil exports have now been cut in half

    The Reuters news agency quoted an analytical firm it did not name as saying Iranian oil exports in June were running between 1.2 million barrels a day and 1.3 million.  That firm had estimated May exports at between 1.5 million barrels a day and 1.6 million.  As the Iran Times reported last week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated Iran’s May exports at 1.5 million barrels a day.

    Iranian oil exports last year averaged 2.5 million barrels a pay, so the latest estimates suggest Iran has seen its exports slashed in half in less than six months and even before the new US and EU sanctions take effect at the end of June.

    The Islamic Republic has repeatedly denied any drop in exports.  But Tuesday, the managing director of the National Iranian Oil Co. (NIOC), Ahmad Qalebani, announced that in the coming weeks Iran’s exports may gradually drop 20 percent to 30 percent, not because of the EU embargo but because Iran plans to carry out reservoir maintenance and oilfield workovers.

    Qalebani did not say this in Iran as some kind of propaganda message to the Iranian people.  Rather he said it at an energy conference in Moscow where everyone knew Iran’s exports had already dropped by far more than 20 percent to 30 percent.

    Queried about his comments, Qalebani said that “maybe, yes” the maintenance work was timed to coincide with the start of sanctions.

    Qalebani named several countries he said might see a drop in supplies from Iran in the “short term.  Among those he named was South Korea, which had already announced it had stopped buying any Iranian crude.

    Meanwhile, Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi chose Sunday to proclaim that Iran would be boosting its oil production four-fold by Now Ruz in 2015, less than three years away.  Iran claimed production of 3.75 million barrels a day in May.  (Platt’s put it at 3.25 million.)  So, Qasemi’s projected four-fold rise would take Iranian production to 15 million barrels a day, making Iran by far the world’s largest oil producer.  That volume is triple any production level that Iran—including Qasemi—has ever talked about before.

    Iran’s revenues were boosted in the early months of the year as fear of the impact of sanctions helped drive prices up to almost $125 for an OPEC barrel on March 13.  But the price has been slipping constantly for the 15 weeks since then and the price has now fallen below $90 a barrel for the first time since the first trading day of 2011

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