World Bulletin / News Desk
Iran acknowledged for the first time on Wednesday that its oil exports have fallen sharply, down 20-30 percent from normal volumes of 2.2 million barrels daily.
A National Iranian Oil Company official in Moscow denied exports had been hit by West sanctions against Iran's nuclear programme, saying that oilfields were under maintenance and crude production was being diverted for refining.
But the admission that exports have fallen substantially is a change of tack from Tehran which until now has denied that the U.S. and European sanctions have had much or any impact.
"It was 20 to 30 percent we reduce regarding to our export," NIOC official Mohammad Ali Emadi said in English. "Some part of the reduction is shifting for the refinery internally."
European Union bans on imports and tanker insurance for ships carrying Iranian crude are due to come into effect on July 1.
Emadi said Iran's normal crude exports were 2.2 million bpd, in line with external estimates. A 20-30 percent fall would put Iranian exports at 1.54-1.76 million bpd, off 440-660,000 bpd.
That is still above most third-party estimates which put Iran's crude exports in June at about 1.3 million bpd.
"We gradually started to reduce, It is not because of the sanctions but sometime regarding overhaul maintenance of the wells," said Emadi.
The NIOC official said Iran wanted to export more gas to India and Pakistan to make up for the fall in crude exports. Iran has long aspired to export gas east but would require heavy investment in a pipeline or liquefied natural gas facilities to do so.
Adding to the upward pressure for oil is the crisis in the Middle East, where a Saudi-led blockade of Qatar has fuelled concerns of possible conflict.
Bourses in both Paris and Frankfurt dipped after a report from data monitoring company IHS Markit showed Eurozone private sector business activity slowed sharply in June while staying in expansion mode.
Analysts said that while the downturn in the headline readings was disappointing, the economy continued to put in a strong performance.
Crude prices stabilised after diving more than two percent on Tuesday on increasing fears of a global supply glut, as continued production in the US and elsewhere offsets an OPEC output cut deal.
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