Chinese purchases of crude boosted Iran’s oil exports in January, an energy watchdog said Thursday, confirming an easing of the Islamic Republic’s economic hardship after a sanctions-relief deal with Western nations.
In its closely watched monthly oil market report, the International Energy Agency, which represents some of the world’s largest oil consumers, said Iranian crude exports rose 100,000 barrels a day to 1.32 million barrels a day, with the largest part of that increase coming from China and, to a lesser extent, Japan and India.
But the volume of Iran’s exports is above a limit agreed with world powers of one million barrels a day, suggesting the country may have to cut sales to comply.
Last year, Iran agreed with six world powers agreed on a sanctions-relief package in exchange for a scaling down of the country’s contested nuclear program. The measures include the lifting of a ban on insuring Iranian oil tankers, which in turn will ease its oil shipments.
But the deal, implemented Jan. 20, also capped Iran’s exports of crude oil to an average 1 million barrels a day over six months.
Iran’s exports exceed that limit by 320,000 barrels a day, the IEA data shows, though last month the deputy oil minister Ali Majedi said the country intends to comply with the agreed limit over the coming half year.
The increase in Iran’s oil sales comes amid a broader improvement in the country’s economy. The International Monetary Fund on Wednesday projected it would grow by up to 2% for the 2014-2015 fiscal year that begins in March, in comparison to the IMF’s forecast for a 2% contraction in the current fiscal year.
Iran’s crude oil exports remain at nearly half their 2011 average of 2.42 million barrels a day, before crippling sanctions on Iranian oil were implemented by the European Union and the U.S. the following year.
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