Iran’s crude exports declining due to sanctions, IEA says

Iran’s crude exports declined in March to the lowest this year as international sanctions aimed at the Persian Gulf country’s nuclear program and weaker global demand cut purchases, the International Energy Agency said.

Imports from Iran slipped to 1.1 million barrels a day in March, from a revised 1.26 million barrels daily in February, the Paris-based adviser to 28 oil-consuming nations said in a report today. U.S. rules took effect in February requiring importers to pay in local currencies kept in escrow accounts and refiners in India last month faced the prospect of losing insurance coverage if they used Iranian oil.

The U.S. and its allies are restricting Iran’s oil exports, the country’s largest source of revenue, to pressure the government in Tehran to stop enriching uranium. Negotiators from Iran and world powers were “far apart in substance” after a second round of meetings in Kazakhstan ended with no agreement on Iran’s nuclear enrichment, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on behalf of the U.S., Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany after the April 5 and April 6 negotiating round. Iran says the program is for civilian use while Western governments suspect a military intent.

Iran’s oil production declined 40,000 barrels a day in March to 2.68 million barrels daily, the IEA said. Shipments last month were also lower than the 1.13 million barrels of Iranian crude the IEA reported other countries bought in January. The agency said it adjusted the figures for March shipments, estimated by measuring the amount of Iranian crude other countries are importing, by 215,000 barrels a day more to account for tanker movements that aren’t properly reported.

Estimates of shipments are based on import data submitted by nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, information from customs agencies, and news reports for individual countries, the IEA said. Tanker-tracking is the only source of information for the most current month, according to the report.

OPEC production declined last month by 140,000 barrels a day to 30.4 million barrels a day as reduced output from Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Libya and Algeria outweighed greater shipments from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, the IEA said. Production from the 12-member Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries exceeded its own production target of 30 million barrels a day it has held since December 2011.