Iran is already planning how it will take advantage of the lifting of Western sanctions as a result of the framework nuclear deal still being negotiated. Tehran believes that if and when these sanctions are removed, it can boost its oil output by 1 million barrels of oil per day (put in perspective, it currently produces 2.8 million bpd), and hopes to crank output up to a record 5 million bpd by the end of the decade.
But as Anjli Rava at the FT reports, those outside of the Iranian oil ministry are skeptical of those numbers. The story paraphrases Robin Mills of Manaar Energy Consulting, who claims that though Iran “is capable of accelerating production and exports by about 800,000 b/d within six to 12 months of sanctions being lifted, it is unlikely to achieve pre-sanctions output levels for years.”
Whether sanctions will be lifted remains a very large ‘if,’ going by the state of the nuclear talks, but should they be, it’s certain that Iran will make revitalizing its oil industry a top priority. Analysts may argue over the exact amount of oil such a renaissance will produce, but no one disputes the fact that Iranian supplies would dramatically increase.
Such an uptick would exacerbate a global glut and further depress prices, which have already dropped more than 40 percent in just one year. The Department of Energy estimates that flood of Iranian crude could drive prices down another $5 to $15 per barrel. The bearish crude market is already hurting suppliers both here in the U.S. (shale production is relatively expensive) and abroad (petrostates which rely heavily on oil revenues have set budgets in recent years based on $100+ per barrel oil, and are now running large deficits). Iran could therefore make life worse for both the U.S. and OPEC.
For its part, Tehran has voiced support for OPEC’s cutting production in attempt to set a price floor in the oil market. But the cartel has done the exact opposite, choosing to boost output to compete with non-OPEC producers for market share. That won’t help Iran, which requires an oil price of $92.50 per barrel just to balance its budget, but given its own stated ambition to pump record amounts, its arguments for crimping production won’t be very convincing.