TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Iran’s average oil exports have been 600,000 to 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) since March, an official from the budget and planning organization said on Wednesday, defying U.S. sanctions aimed at dropping Tehran’s main source of income to zero.
Iran’s oil exports have shrunk from more than 2.5 million bpd since the United States withdrew from a nuclear deal with Iran 2018 and reimposed sanctions.
"The average oil sales so far this (Iranian) year have been 600,000 to 700,000 barrels per day,” Hamid Pourmuhammadi told Iran’s Fars news agency, without providing further details. The Iranian year began on March 20.
Iranian authorities have said Washington’s "maximum pressure” policy aimed at halting Iran’s oil exports have failed as Tehran has been working to get around the measures and keep exports flowing.
Citing three assessments based on tanker tracking, Reuters reported this year that Iranian oil exports had risen sharply in September.
Mega Gas Field Nears Completion
The net present value of Iran’s supergiant South Pars natural gas field has jumped from an estimated $116 billion at this point last year to $135 billion now, a senior oil and gas industry source who works closely with Iran’s Petroleum Ministry exclusively told OilPrice.com last week.
The key reason behind this valuation boost is that progress across all areas of the development, including the controversial Phase 11, has picked up pace on the back of an increase in the involvement of various Chinese companies who operate under the U.S.’s sanctions radar through individual contact-only projects, not as official field developers.
Given this, it is now expected by Iran’s Petroleum Ministry that the entire South Pars project will be producing at or near fully Phase 1 capacity well in advance of the March 2022 official completion date.
This switch from Chinese companies working as wholesale developers to working as "mere” contractors was seen very early on after the withdrawal of CNPC from Phase 11 when Iran’s Petroleum Ministry announced that it had awarded a $1.3 billion development plan to more than double oil production at the supergiant South Azadegan oilfield, the second such oil project signed this month, the other being Yaran.
As it now stands in South Pars, most of the phases are either 100 percent complete or within one or two percent of that figure, with the entire field producing a average of 725-775 million cubic meters per day (mcm/d) of gas.
With an estimated 14.2 trillion cubic meters (tcm) of gas reserves in place plus 18 billion barrels of gas condensate, South Pars already accounts for around 40 percent of Iran’s total estimated 33.8 tcm of gas reserves and about 60 percent of its gas production and this is set to increase as the remainder of the sub-100 percent-completed phases are finished within the next six to nine months, according to the Iran source.
This compares to an official target date for completion of the end of the Iranian calendar year in 2022 (on 20 March). This ambition received a recent boost with the very recent installation – thanks to the involvement of Chinese firms on a contract-only basis - of a new $25 million platform jacket (11B) in Phase 11 that will make it possible to drill 12 more wells on top of the five currently being drilled.
"With the installation of this jacket and the drilling of five wells, it will be possible to recover an extra 14 million cubic meters per day from this phase within the next 14 months,” highlighted Iran’s Petroleum Minister Bijan Zangeneh recently.
A similar boost came with the recent commissioning of four new platforms (two main and two satellites) for Phases 22 to 24, with the first stage (involving the main platform of Phase 22 and the satellite platform 24A, each with a capacity of 14.2 mcm/d, having come on line late in 2018. The second stage, involving the main platform of Phase 23 and the satellite platform 24B, will come online within weeks, with the same capacity. As a result, Phases 22 to 24 will increase gas production from the current 42 mcm/d to 56 mcm/d.
South Pars’ valuation increase in recent months has also come by dint of an increase in the maximum recovery capacity across the site, with the maximum recovery figure in 2013 standing at 280 mcm/d (with 17 phases in a semi-finished state) compared to today’s output of well over 2.5 times higher, as 17 phases (and 12 associated refinery operations) have become fully operational.
In addition, of the 37 active offshore platforms in South Pars, 26 have been installed over the past eight years, covering 70 percent of offshore platform development and installation, with many of these having become operational in just the past few months. Within just the past few months, Phase 13 of South Pars completed the standard stages of commissioning and the start of rich gas recovery from its third platform (‘13C’), which has since been connected to the 13A main platform through an 18-inch pipeline. That, in turn, has sent gas to the Phase 13 refinery in Kangan through a 32-inch pipeline that extends for over 100 kilometers. Given this, the current capacity of rich gas recovery from the offshore Phase 13 platforms alone is 43 mcm/d, with 28.5 mcm/d of this coming from Platforms B and D of the first phase of the project.
In conjunction with this, plans are being devised to bring the Phase 14’s onshore refinery to full production by next June, with the engineering, procurement and construction section of the Phase 14 refinery having reached more than 87 percent completion, and the first train of the refinery likely to come on-stream by the end of the current Iranian calendar year on 20 March 2021.
This refinery will be the last onshore processing facility of the huge gas reservoir that Iran shares with Qatar (in which it is the North Dome). As it stands, the offshore section of Phase 14 is now fully operational with 56.8 mcm/d of production capacity, following the last platform coming online in March, with 14.2 mcm/d of gas production capacity. This augmented the other 3 platforms (2 satellite and two main), each with 14.2 mcm/d of gas production capacity. Overall, then, in addition to this natural gas production, Phase 14 is also fully set to produce 75,000 barrels per day (bpd) of gas condensate and 400 tons per day of sulfur, 1 million tons per year (mtpy) of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), and 1 mtpy of ethane to be fed to petrochemical plants.