Iranian oil exports drop in March

Fri Mar 23, 2012 1:53pm GMT

A source at an oil company, which still deals in Iranian crude, said the evidence pointed to an overall drop in shipments in March, seeing a decline of at least 300,000 bpd mainly because European customers are taking less.

Petrologistics is one of a number of companies which estimates oil output by tracking tanker shipments, because Iran, like many big oil exporters, does not routinely disclose how much it is supplying on a timely basis.

Iran's oil exports are difficult to track and, like those of other countries, they can fluctuate week by week. With a week to go in March, the picture may change.

"We are struggling to get the numbers nailed down," said an industry official.

Oil prices have climbed to $127 a barrel this year, just $20 short of their all-time high, as the tighter Western sanctions on Iran threaten to choke off its exports.

Some oil industry officials say Saudi Arabia is increasing shipments to compensate for lower Iranian supplies and to lower prices, which may lead to Saudi output climbing above 10 million bpd in March.

A Reuters survey estimated Saudi Arabia produced 9.85 million bpd in February. Saudi Arabia itself said on Tuesday its March output was expected to be around 9.9 million bpd.

An Iranian oil official, asked on Friday to comment on whether exports had fallen, referred to remarks earlier in March by Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi who said shipments were unchanged from last year. (Reporting by Alex Lawler; Editing by Jason Neely)

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