Economic pressure can compel Tehran to moderate its destructive behavior and end its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Crude and natural gas exports historically account for 25% of government revenues: it is therefore important to accurately track Iran’s oil exports to interpret if sanctions are effectively stopping the flow of revenue to the regime.
This can be difficult given the regime’s track-record of smuggling and sanctions evasion techniques and there is little consensus among oil tracking agencies about how much is getting through, and to where.
This variance mars the accuracy of media reports, but it also presents a serious challenge to those trying to get a handle on the trajectory of the Iranian economy, given its oil revenue dependency.
More importantly, a correct accounting of quantities and destinations will help focus limited resources to where they are really needed: which shippers, which vessels, which areas, which ports, which flags, which insurers.
UANI has therefore sought to address the information gap with a new comprehensive ship-tracking methodology.
Using Automatic Identification System (AIS), satellite imagery, vessel comparison and tanker classification, and cargo datasets to uncover all under-the-radar ship-to-ship (STS) transfers and exports of Iranian oil and gas condensates, we generate what we contend are the most accurate figures available.
This resource seeks to disrupt Iran’s attempts to generate profits from oil sales and further isolate the regime economically.
On April 21, Reuters reported that Chinese authorities were conducting more rigorous customs checks on Iranian oil imports entering the northeast province of Shandong, causing delays “after several Iranian [crude oil] cargos were [falsely] declared as bitumen….” As a consequence, 9.6 million barrels are now awaiting customs clearance for entry. As UANI first noted twelve months ago in its regularly updated “Uncovering the Chinese Purchasers” resource, Shandong accounts for one-fifth of total Chinese oil imports and is the hub of almost all the major ‘teapot’ refineries that are actually taking Iranian deliveries.
Since China is essentially indifferent to the origin of its oil supply, this partial clampdown on Iranian oil has nothing to do with a new-found respect for U.S. sanctions. Rather the impulse is purely economic: Beijing receives higher tax revenues from crude oil rather than bitumen, and higher still for Iranian crude. In particular, Malaysian blends – to which Iranian oil is often rebranded – are subject to lower import taxes (and see below). Read more
On June 11, 2022, Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi signed a 20-year cooperation agreement to expand ties in the oil and petrochemical industries, the military, and the economy. Since then, the bilateral ties have mushroomed, with Iran supplying over 26 million barrels of crude oil and gas condensate in 2022. In exchange, Venezuela has delivered about the same volume of fuel oil cargo to Iran. National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) vessels have transported most shipments – in both directions: once discharged of Iranian crude and gas in Venezuelan ports, the same NITC tanker loads Venezuelan fuel oil on the return leg to Iran. Read more
…Since 2019, Titan has hauled a series of Iranian crude oil shipments, according to data intelligence company Kpler. The vessel carried about 16 million barrels of Iranian oil in 2022, according to data from United Against Nuclear Iran, which tracks the nation’s crude exports.