×

INTERVIEW-Low stocks, growth in domestic demand to cap Iran oil exports - NIOC

NIOC@

* Crude, condensate exports to stay at 2.6 mln bpd -NIOC official

* Condensate exports to fall to 450,000 bpd

* South Pars field maintenance, rise in local demand cut condensate exports (Adds exports to Europe, India, sanctions)

SINGAPORE, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Iran aims to maintain its crude and condensate exports for the rest of 2017 though recent maintenance, depleted oil storage and a growing domestic appetite will limit shipments abroad, a senior official at the national state oil company said on Monday

Iran has a target to export around 2.6 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil and condensate combined for the rest of the year, said Saeid Khoshrou, director of international affairs at National Iranian Oil Company, on the sidelines of an industry conference in Singapore.

Exports of condensate, an ultra-light crude used in petrochemical production, will fall to about 450,000 bpd because of maintenance at the South Pars field, from an average of 550,000 bpd over the last 15 months, Khoshrou said.

The maintenance, because of a "technical problem" at South Pars, is expected to take one to two months to complete, he said.

Meanwhile, crude exports are expected to stabilize at about 2.1 million to 2.3 million bpd through the end of the year, he said. Iran is the third-largest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

We had a huge amount of stock of condensate ... but this stock is already finished floating and on shore whatever stock we had it is already finished we have to decrease the exports of condensate (also) because of domestic demand, said Khoshrou.

NIOC has informed buyers in Asia that it could reduce condensate exports in October because of the maintenance at South Pars, industry sources have said.

By the second quarter of 2017, Iran had cleared excess oil stored onshore and offshore as the easing of international sanctions in January 2016 enabled it to ramp up exports.

Iran is also expanding output capacity from its three condensate splitters at the Persian Gulf Star Refinery (PGSR) in Bandar Abbas. Each splitter, which breaks down the condensate into fuels such as naphtha, gasoline and diesel, has a capacity of 120,000 bpd.

Khoshrou said Iran may stop gasoline imports in the second half of 2018 once PGSR's second splitter comes online.

Iran withstood years of sanctions on its oil industry because of its nuclear program that has left the sector under-invested.

The sanctions were lifted under a 2015 deal allowing Tehran to ramp up its oil exports, but new sanctions were imposed in July by U.S. President Donald Trump, who during his election campaign called the nuclear agreement - negotiated under his predecessor Barack Obama - the worst deal ever."

Khoshrou dismissed the unilateral U.S. sanctions as something to hinder Tehran's exports to Europe.

"Iran is used to living under sanctions. It made Iran tougher. It is not something that Iran is worried about," he said. He added that NIOC aims to keep its exports to Europe at an average of 30 percent to 40 percent of its total exports.

Khoshrou also shrugged off threats by India to cut Iranian crude imports, adding that exports to India have held at an average 400,000 bpd.

"Some other customers approached us and wanted more crude so we're not worried about it," he said.

India had planned to import 369,000 bpd of Iranian crude in the fiscal year that will end in March 2018, about a quarter less than a year ago, as Iran did not award an Indian consortium the rights to develop Iran's huge Farzad B natural gas field.

(Reporting by Florence Tan and Rania El-Gamal; Editing by Joseph Radford and Christian Schmollinger)