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Record Exports For A Forgotten Petroleum Power

It's amazing how fast we forget things.

And one important country has been particularly absent from the minds of petroleum observers the last few years. A nation that has considerable power over global export markets, but is today largely disregarded in the industry.

That's Iran. A global-scale oil and gas producer--whose exports had temporarily disappeared from the worldwide market due to economic sanctions.

But we got an important reminder last week that Iran is still a critical supplier. And one that is once again on the rise.

Those numbers came from commodities specialists Platts. Who reported that Iran's exports of natural gas liquids hit a high-point during May.

Estimates are that Iran shipped 317,000 tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas to Asia during the month.

Here's why those numbers are important. This is the highest export volume seen since sanctions against Iran were lifted in May 2013. Suggesting that global buyers are ramping up purchases here.

That represents a major, and largely forgotten, source of supply returning to the market. Iran had been sanctioned since July 2012. Meaning that the country's petroleum exports had dwindled over the last two years. For some commodities, shipments had dropped to almost nothing.

But the new data show us that Iran is back--and as important as ever. Buyers from key markets like China, South Korea and Southeast Asia have all been reportedly stepping up their buying here now that shipping restrictions have been lifted.

This is critical to keep in mind for energy investors. Up until now, the market has been functioning largely without Iranian supply of oil, natural gas and liquids. The return of this significant producer could thus change the global supply-demand balance.

Effects could be significant, given the potential scale of Iran's output. If you're an energy investor, this is a critical spot to keep an eye on.

Here's to an awakening giant,

By Dave Forest

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