Iran doesn’t see oil customers to get sanctions waivers

VIENNAIran said it doesn’t believe buyers of its oil will get waivers from the US government that would allow them to continue purchasing cargoes after President Donald Trump’s renewal of sanctions.

The Persian nation is facing tightening squeeze on its oil exports. American officials were said to have asked Japan to completely halt imports from Iran, going beyond the cuts demanded during previous Obama-era sanctions. Those curbs in 2012 removed about one million barrels a day of crude from the market, suggesting Trump’s restrictions could have a big impact on the market.

“I don’t believe they can receive waiver from the US,” Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said last Friday in a Bloomberg Television interview. “We are going to find some other way.”

When Trump decided to re-impose restrictions on Iran last month, his administration gave buyers 180 days to curb their purchases. The request to halt Japanese imports signals a tougher stance than in 2012, when nations were allowed to continue buying at reduced levels in exchange for waivers from US financial restrictions.

Most customers are still buying Iran’s crude, “but some of them have difficulty because of the pressure from the US on bank transfers, transport insurance and so on,” Zanganeh said. Oil majors Total SA and Royal Dutch Shell plc are among those companies that have already stopped their purchases, he said.

“We are trying to find new customers,” Zanganeh said.

There are many ways for Iran to try to preserve output and the ministry has prepared for a “worst scenario,” Zanganeh said in Vienna after attending a meeting of the OPEC.

“I can not describe these other ways,” Zanganeh said. “If the US administration knows what we are going to do, they will block us.” Iranian oil exports are close to 2.5 million barrels a day this month, he said.

The sanctions were a source of contention at the OPEC summit, where Iran initially resisted efforts by fellow members to raise production in a way that could take its market share. Zanganeh eventually agreed a compromise with his Saudi counterpart, although the vague wording of the final communique made the deal something of a fudge. — Bloomberg