October 18, 2016 / 7:06 AM / 9 months ago

Iran oil exports hold near 5-yr, pre-sanctions level high -source

4 Min Read

* Oct exports to drop 1.5 pct from 5-year high hit in Sept

* India set to top China as No.1 Iran buyer with record volumes

* Hungary, Portugal buy from Iran 1st time since sanctions lifted

By Osamu Tsukimori

TOKYO, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Iran's October crude and condensate exports are set to hold near five-year highs hit in September, a source with knowledge of its preliminary tanker schedule said, reflecting Tehran's success in boosting shipments after Western sanctions were lifted.

The No. 3 OPEC producer is producing around 4.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude and ultra light oil condensate, according to local oil officials, while it has just about doubled its total exports since sanctions targeting its nuclear programme were lifted in January.

Iran is seeking to raise its crude and condensate production to more than 5 million bpd by 2020, with its deputy oil minister saying on Monday that Iran's output was now almost sufficient to agree to the group limit planned last month by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Iran's October crude oil and condensate exports are set at 2.56 million bpd, according to the preliminary tanker schedule, down from 2.60 million bpd in September.

The September exports - which some sources put as high as 2.8 million bpd - were the most since mid-2011, and compare with just under 2.5 million bpd in August.

September exports were boosted both by heavy demand for condensate, a light oil excluded from OPEC supply quotas that is often produced with natural gas, and by China's biggest monthly buys of the year at 744,000 bpd, which offset a 23 percent decline in loadings headed for Europe.

Crude shipments in October are set for a three-month low of 2 million bpd, but exports of condensate are expected to rise 22 percent from September to 559,000 bpd - excluding barrels loaded out of storage - the highest volume since sanctions were lifted.

Iran's crude and condensate exports to Asia in October are likely to total 1.83 million bpd, down from 1.96 million bpd in September, but still more than double from a year earlier.

India Eyes Record High Loading

Loadings headed for India will likely reach 736,000 bpd this month, a record high according to data stretching back at least 15 years, and up from 641,000 bpd in September. The shipments to India this month will top 495,000 bpd to be loaded for China, which is taking its lowest volume so far for this year.

South Korea is set to load 379,000 bpd in October, up 35 percent from the previous month, and the highest import volume since January 2000, according to the schedule and South Korean import data. Japan is lifting 225,000 bpd, down from 231,000 bpd in September.

Total exports to Europe are about 613,000 bpd this month, up from 481,000 bpd last month. In the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates is scheduled to load about 111,000 bpd.

Portugal and Hungary are loading 1 million barrels each for the month, marking their first shipments since the sanctions were lifted.

Turkey is lifting this year's high of 194,000 bpd in October. Greece, Spain and Italy are also loading barrels.

Additional reporting by Jane Chung; Editing by Tom Hogue

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