The tanker Maria sails out of the Port of Corpus Christi after discharging crude oil at the Citgo refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S. (Photographer: Eddie Seal/Bloomberg)

Iran Sanctions May Be a Blessing for U.S. Crude Exports

(Bloomberg) -- A revival of U.S. oil sanctions on OPEC’s third-largest producer may set the stage for record-high U.S. crude exports by the end of this year.

President Donald Trump’s decision to exit the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reinstate sanctions on the Islamic Republic will remove Iranian oil from the global market, pushing prices higher and increasing the demand for U.S. oil, Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates LLC in Houston, said in phone interview.

Iran Sanctions May Be a Blessing for U.S. Crude Exports

U.S. shale, which is lighter and sweeter than Iranian crude, won’t be able to replace the lost barrels entirely, Sandy Fielden, director of research and commodities for Morningstar Inc. in Austin, Texas, said by phone. Nevertheless, higher prices would fuel American production growth and widen the spread between West Texas Intermediate crude and the global benchmark, Brent.

WTI is already is trading at a nearly $6 a barrel discount to Brent, compared to $2.50 at the same time last year. If the spread widens further, "exports could be higher in the next seven months, creeping up towards 2.5 million barrels a day by December and average 2 million this year," Fielden said. Exports averaged 1.67 million in March, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Still, U.S. pipeline bottlenecks could limit export growth in the near-term. WTI in the Permian is trading at $12.75 a barrel below benchmark WTI in Cushing, Oklahoma, the lowest in over three years, because of an ongoing pipeline squeeze.

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