NEW DELHI/ANKARA (Reuters) - Iran has awarded its first cargo of West Karoun oil to Spain’s Repsol, two sources familiar with the matter said on Monday, indicating that Tehran is keen to boost its oil exports despite the looming threat of sanctions.
The Persian Gulf nation’s exports hit 2.7 million barrels per day (bpd) oil in May, the oil ministry’s news agency SHANA reported on Saturday, a new record since the lifting of international sanctions on Tehran in 2016.
Iran exported 2.4 million bpd of crude oil in May, SHANA reported, and 300,000 bpd of natural gas condensate.
U.S. President Donald Trump last month pulled out of the 2015 accord between Iran and world powers that lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs to its nuclear programme.
The remaining signatories of the deal - France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China - still see the international accord as the best chance of stopping Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon and are trying to salvage it.
Iran is marketing the West Karoun crude as Pars oil, two sources said. Iranian officials have repeatedly said that Tehran considers the nuclear deal in place as long as Iran could sell its crude and receive its money.
National Iranian Oil Co (NIOC) has already distributed the samples of the heavy oil from West Karoun oilfields in southwest Iran to some customers. Production from the field has nearly doubled in the past year to 300,000 bpd, sources told Reuters last month.
Repsol has agreed to take 500,000 barrels of Pars crude on a spot basis, one of the sources said.
The Spanish firm will be co-loading the cargo with Iranian heavy grade, this source said, adding Repsol is scheduled to lift the cargo later this week or early next week.
Iran’s top leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on May 23 that European powers must protect Iranian oil sales from U.S. sanctions, and continue buying Iranian crude, if they want Tehran to stay in the nuclear deal.
The bulk of Iran’s crude exports, at least 1.8 million bpd, goes to Asia. Most of the rest goes to Europe and these volumes are seen by analysts and traders as the more vulnerable to being curbed by U.S. sanctions.
A Repsol spokesman said the company does not comment on individual cargoes.
Additional Reporting by Florence Tan in Singapore, Amanda Cooper in LONDON and Jose Elias Rodriguez in MADRID; editing by David Evans