Iran's oil exports accelerated to a recent record in April, indicating Tehran is seeking to maximize revenue ahead of the U.S. President Donald Trump's upcoming decision on the 2015 nuclear deal and the possible re-imposition of sanctions.
Exports of crude and condensate — a grade of ultra-light crude oil — hit 2.767 million barrels a day last month, according to data from Tanker Trackers. That was an increase from 2.104 million in March.
Official estimates from Iran's oil ministry put April's figure at 2.617 million barrels a day, the highest since implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal in January 2016, according to the ministry's Twitter account.
Iran Oil Ministry tweet: Iran's crude oil exports hit 2,617 mbd in April 2018, a new record since implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) back in January 2016
Benchmark oil prices have hit levels not seen since 2014, reflecting fears about supply disruptions from Iran to Venezuela and as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries cuts supply in a bid to normalize inventories.
Recent appointments to Trump's national security and foreign policy team — including former U.N. ambassador John Bolton to national security advisor — suggest Washington will adopt a harder stance against Iran.
"Iran has opened the gates, drawing inventories wherever possible and monetizing shipments and sales," said John Driscoll, director of JTD Energy Services in Singapore and a former oil trader whose career spans nearly 40 years. "They are preparing for a JCPOA rollback. You can bet John Bolton's mustache on it."
Robin Mills, CEO of Qamar Energy and a former Shell executive added: "It does appear Iran is trying to draw down all its storage ahead of the JCPOA deadline in case it has problems exporting it later."