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Official Chinese data showed this week that China imported 120,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil from Iran in July as Beijing returns to reporting crude imports from the Islamic Republic after reporting no such imports for June.
According to Chinese customs data reported by Radio Farda, China’s oil imports from Iran averaged 77,000 bpd between January and July this year, nine times lower than the figures China had reported before the U.S. re-imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil industry and exports.
In reality, various reports, media investigations, and tanker-tracking firms suggest that China is receiving much more oil from Iran than the official figures report.
China’s imports from Iran, as reported by the customs data, corresponds with data provided by data intelligence company Kpler to Radio Farda.
But one tanker, as per Kpler data, tried to cover up the origin of Iranian oil going to China labeling the cargo as “Indonesian oil.”
That tanker, the Giessel, was one of four oil tankers that the Caribbean island state of St. Kitts & Nevis stripped of its flag after an NBC News investigation found that as many as 15 tankers under various flags had manipulated their trackers to skirt the U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil exports.
An earlier investigation by NBC News found that those tankers were switching off trackers to hide the fact that they had traveled to Iranian waters to load oil for exports in violation of the U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil industry.
Iran is exporting a lot more crude oil than U.S. figures suggest, data from TankerTrackers.com has revealed, as reported by NBC News.
According to the data, Iran is exporting as much as 600,000 bpd, using ship-to-ship transfers with transponders turned off to avoid detection, skirting U.S. sanctions. The daily average number compares with an estimate of 227,000 bpd made in a U.S. Congressional report, NBC’s Raf Sanchez wrote on Twitter.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.
never stopped buying Iranian crude oil. Long before the sanctions China accounted for 31% or 659,000 barrels a day (b/d) of Iranian crude oil exports and is still importing an estimated 600,000 b/d now compared with 227,000 b/d claimed by a US Congressional report.
Iran has perfected the art of evading US sanctions and is continuing to export its crude oil by direct exports to China, India and Turkey, ship-to-ship transfers, via Iraq and by barter trade.
If there are reports of lower Chinese imports, it is because Iranian crude which is on board tankers at Chinese ports awaiting offloading is not included in official Chinese data until it has been fully delivered to Chinese clients.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London