Iran Driving Season Puts Fuel Demand on a Tear Over New Year

(Bloomberg) -- Iran’s driving season is in full swing as the Persian new year begins and motorists leave home for the mountains and seaside.

Gasoline demand rose to 115.8 million liters (30.6 million gallons) on Monday from 95.8 million liters Sunday, according to the Iranian Oil Ministry’s news service Shana. Monday’s consumption was the highest on record, Tasnim news agency reported.

Iran’s new year, known as Nowruz, officially started on Wednesday and followed another public holiday on Tuesday in honor of the nationalization of the country’s oil industry in 1951. The holiday season lasts until April 2.

Downtown Tehran was almost deserted Wednesday morning, with only a few cars and hardly any pedestrians around the usually busy Enghelab Square and the Azadi Street leading to it. Even in the nearby central Metro station, platforms were almost empty.

The annual spike in demand can put more pressure on Iran to boost gasoline imports, with refineries currently producing an average of 77.4 million liters a day. This could be the last year that Iran needs to import gasoline with an expansion of the Persian Gulf Star refinery underway to make the country self-sufficient.

Heavy traffic was reported Tuesday on main highways out of Tehran, the capital, in particular leading to the Caspian Sea, one of the most popular holiday destinations for Iranians. Road trips taken during the new year holidays are expected to increase by some 5 percent as more cars have taken to Iranian roads over the past year, Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi said, according to state-run Iranian Students News Agency.

Iranians are expected to make 17.5 million trips during this Nowruz season compared with 15 million in the same period last year, Ali Asghar Mounesan, the head of Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, told Tehran-based newspaper Iran. ​

The Iranian capital, home to some 12 million people out of a total population of more than 80 million, is notoriously empty, quiet and clean during the holiday season as traffic and vehicular air pollution recede.

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