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Iranian crude exports exceeded 1.5 mb/d in May, the highest level since 2018 despite the country still being under U.S. sanctions. Last month Tehran said it has boosted crude output to above 3 million bpd, again the highest since 2018.
Last week, oil prices tanked after reports emerged that the U.S. and Iran are making progress after resuming talks on a nuclear deal, a move that could ease sanctions on Iran's oil exports. Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported that the talks are moving forward more rapidly than expected, with the possibility of a deal being struck in a matter of weeks. Deal terms are likely to include Iran ceasing its 60% and higher uranium enrichment activities in return for permission to export as much as 1M bbl/day of oil.
Prospects of reviving the Iran nuclear deal have swung dramatically, from near certain in March 2022 to almost nil by the end of the year and now this. Iran’s dire economic situation is likely to force its hand into eventually accepting monitoring and signing a new nuclear deal sooner rather than later, with the country’s foreign currency reserves having greatly dwindled from $122.5 billion in 2018 to a mere $20 billion in 2021 before recovering to $41.4 billion in 2022. With the rate of foreign currency-denominated capital flight out of Iran running at nearly $ 5 billion per month, Iran is not in a very enviable situation.
A successful nuclear deal could change the oil markets, with former Iran oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh saying that his biggest dream has always been to increase Iran’s oil output to six million barrels per day; earn $2 trillion through oil exports over the next two decades and use the income to invest in the country’s development.
Iran’s current production is considerably lower than the 2018 peak at 3.7 mb/d.
Boosting production from the current level to anywhere close to 6mb/d could take several years at the very least due to years of underinvestment.
By Alex Kimani for Oilprice.com
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Alex Kimani is a veteran finance writer, investor, engineer and researcher for Safehaven.com.