Iran could raise its oil exports to 2.5mn b/d once US sanctions are lifted, vice-president Eshaq Jahangiri said, as talks in Vienna over both a return by the US to the 2015 nuclear deal and a lifting of sanctions on Tehran progress.
"We have tried to neutralize the sanctions," Jahangiri said on Friday. "Oil sales have dropped a lot, but now the situation is better, and we are in control. We will be able to increase oil exports to 2.5mn b/d after removal of the sanctions."
Iran's crude oil output dropped to multi-decade lows of below 2mn b/d mark following Washington's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in mid-2018, with exports limited to at or around 500,000 b/d. But Iran's production has staged something of a limited recovery since December, reaching 2.22mn b/d in March, according to Argus estimates. That was the highest level since August 2019.
Although Jahangiri did not specify whether his 2.5mn b/d forecast was for crude and condensate combined, or crude alone, a look back at Iran's pre-sanctions export volumes suggests that he is likely to have included condensate exports in that figure.
According to Vortexa, Iran loaded around 2.9mn b/d of crude and condensate in May 2018 - the month that former US president Donald Trump announced that he would be pulling the US out of the nuclear deal and reimposing sanctions on Iran. But by December that year, exports had fallen to just 805,000 b/d. Last month, that figure was just 647,000 b/d, Vortexa says.
Those sanctions at one point had cut off more than 2mn b/d of Iranian exports, but the newly installed administration of President Joe Biden has pledged to resume US participation in the 2015 deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on the proviso that Iran, too, return to full compliance with its commitments.
Iran began indirect talks with the US in Vienna in April to resurrect the deal, and guarantee badly-needed sanctions relief for its economy and oil sector in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear activities.
"I can say that now our discussions have reached a maturity, both on the disputed topics and on the sections that we are agreed on," Iran's deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi said at the conclusion of the latest round of talks yesterday. "Although we cannot yet fully predict when and how we will be able to reach an agreement, it is moving forward, although slowly."