Iranian oil exports end 2022 at a high, despite no nuclear deal

Iranian oil exports hit new highs in the last two months of 2022, and are making a strong start in 2023, despite U.S. sanctions, according to companies that track the flow of shipments to China and Venezuela.

Energy consultant SVB International said that Iran’s crude exports in December averaged 1.137 million barrels per day, up 42,000 bpd from November, and the highest 2022 figure SVB has reported, based on estimates given earlier, Reuters reported.

Consultant Petro-Logistics, which tracks oil supply, said it was seeing an upward trend in Iranian crude exports which, in its view, in December reached their highest level since March 2019.

Kpler, a data intelligence firm, put Iranian crude exports at 1.23 million bpd in November, the highest since August 2022, and almost on a par with April 2019’s rate of 1.27 million bpd, although they slipped to just below 1 million bpd in December.

There is no definitive figure for Iranian oil exports, and estimates often fall into a wide range. Tanker-tracking companies use various methods to track the flow, including satellite data, port loading data and human intelligence.

According to another analyst, Vortexa, China’s December imports of Iranian oil hit a new record of 1.2 million bpd, up 130% from a year earlier.

“Most of these shipments found a home in Shandong, where independent refiners have turned to discounted grades since the second half of 2022 amid sluggish domestic demand and depressed refining margins,” the company said.

The press department of China’s Foreign Ministry, in response to a request for comment, said: “The legitimate and reasonable cooperation between China and Iran under the international legal framework deserves respect and protection”.

Vortexa said the supply of Russian Urals, the main competing grade to Iranian oil, fell in December, when a price cap on Russian crude exports and European Union ban created uncertainty for buyers.

A revived nuclear deal would allow Iran to boost sales to former buyers such as South Korea and Europe.