Iran’s crude oil exports are on target to hit a nine-month high in January as buyers prepare for the lifting of sanctions against the Middle Eastern country within days.
Iran is on track to ship 1.10 million barrels a day (bpd) of crude excluding condensate this month, according to an industry source with knowledge of the OPEC member’s tanker loading schedule.
The preliminary number, 21 percent higher than December, is likely to add to worries over a global supply glut that pushed the oil prices to 12-year lows this week. Inspectors are expected to verify Tehran is in compliance with a landmark nuclear agreement as early as Friday.
Iran has removed the sensitive core of its Arak nuclear reactor and U.N. inspectors will visit the site on Thursday to verify the move crucial to the implementation of the atomic agreement with major powers.
Verification will pave the way for the unfreezing of billions of dollars of assets and an end to bans that have curtailed its oil exports.
Tehran is set to target India, Asia’s fastest-growing major oil market, and old partners in Europe with hundreds of thousands of barrels of its crude.
The country has repeatedly said it would ramp up crude oil production by 500,000 bpd as soon as sanctions are lifted.
Global oil prices were trading lower on Friday at slightly above $30 a barrel as the market braced for the new Iranian supply.
“At $30, the profitability of selling their oil is rather low to be even happy about,” Phillip Futures said in a note on Friday.
Iran plans to load 495,000 bpd of crude bound for China, the biggest buyer of Iranian crude, according to the source. This is the highest amount since August.
Iran is targeting loadings of 168,000 bpd this month to Indian refineries, down from about 203,000 bpd in December. Ships bound for Japan are set to lift 166,000 bpd this month, the most since February, after loading 132,000 bpd in December, the source said.
South Korean-bound shipments are on track to be 161,000 bpd, unchanged from December.
Taiwanese shipments are set to be 65,000 bpd, the first shipments since September, said the source. Iran will load 106,000 bpd in January for arrival in Turkey, unchanged from December. Iran is additionally seen storing more than 60,000 bpd of crude into its offshore storage this month, the source added.
The figures don’t include loadings for condensate, an ultra light form of crude that Iran also exports.