Asian markets look to recovery of Iran’s LPG exports

Iran’s LPG export program has extended its decline for a fourth month in December, even though the South Pars gas field resumed production around three weeks ago after two months’ maintenance, trade sources said this week.

The initial shipment program shows about 199,000 mt of LPG will be lifted in December, down slightly from 220,000 mt in November, though trade sources said more shipments could still be fixed.

If more cargoes were to be fixed, it would signal a slow recovery in Iranian LPG exports.

The December estimate takes shipments from Iran for the year to date to about 3.33 million mt.

The latest volumes are destined for China, Indonesia, Africa and possibly South Asia, according to cFlow, S&P Global Platts ship-tracking software.

Before the July 2012 Western sanctions, which were lifted in January 2016, Iran exported more than 400,000 mt/month of LPG, mainly to Asia, sources said.

Monthly Iranian shipments have been slipping since touching a year-to-date high of 423,000 mt in August because of reduced output at the South Pars gas field, sources said. The field returned from maintenance around mid-November, but condensate production remained low immediately after that, which also kept LPG exports subdued.

Rising domestic consumption since the maintenance has also prompted the National Iranian Oil Co., or NIOC, to cap condensate exports at a similar level to during the field maintenance, Platts had reported.

Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zangeneh said last Thursday the country’s crude oil production was now around 3.8 million b/d, along with 400,000 b/d from condensates, while crude oil and condensate exports combined stood at more than 2.5 million b/d.

International trading firms Petredec and Glencore lifted cargoes from Iranian ports in December, shipping sources said.

Petredec loaded at Assaluyeh a 44,000 mt evenly split propane/butane cargo from Iranian Gas Commercial Co., or IGCC, aboard the VLGC Pacific Shanghai. The vessel is now in the Gulf of Oman en route to Kalbut in Indonesia, according to cFlow, S&P Global Platts ship-tracking software.

Glencore loaded from Bandar Imam Khomeini an 18,000 mt parcel, comprising 4,000 mt of propane and 14,000 mt butane, from Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industry Commercial Co., or PGPICC, aboard the SeaSpeed.

The vessel is on its way to Mombasa, Kenya, according to cFlow.

Trading firm Global Reality, a regular lifter of Iranian cargoes this year, loaded from Bandar Imam Khomeini a 44,000 mt cargo, comprising 33,000 mt of propane and 11,000 mt butane, aboard the Gas Jasmine from PGPICC, sources said. The VLGC is now in the Gulf of Oman en route to Fang Cheng in southern China.

Caspian Petrochemical Co., another Iranian trading company, is due to lift at Assaluyeh either a 44,000 mt propane or mixed cargo aboard the Gas Courage. Platts cFlow shows the Gas Courage has made regular trips to Indian ports such as Haldia, Vizag and New Mangalore in recent months from Middle Eastern ports.

PGPICC is lifting at Assaluyeh a 44,000 mt propane cargo aboard the VLGC EverRich 8. The vessel last departed from New Mangalore around mid-November.

It is also lifting from Assaluyeh a 5,000 mt parcel aboard the EverRich 6, which, according to cFlow, is en route to Port Qasim in Pakistan.

Other than the Petredec cargo, the December program is not showing any other shipments to Indonesia.

Indonesia’s state-run Pertamina took a 44,000 mt propane cargo for October lifting and one parcel for September lifting after a pause in August, shipping sources said.

Those earlier cargoes, shipped by two of Pertamina’s own VLGCs, are under an FOB contract that commenced in May last year with NIOC for a total 600,000 mt of LPG to be delivered over 2016-2017.

A Pertamina source said the company will soon negotiate its contract renewal with the Iranian side following a delay and aims to conclude the talks by end December, with supplies to start from February through to December 2018. Indonesia is well supplied for January, he added.

Pertamina last month awarded a 2018 term tender to four traders to supply from January four to six 44,000 mt evenly split cargoes/month on a CFR basis.

Pertamina’s discussions will now be with IGCC and not NIOC, the source added. Pertamina has been taking term cargoes from IGCC since earlier this year, according to shipping sources.

PGPICC and IGCC are now the main exporters of Iranian LPG, taking over from NIOC following a restructure of the country’s LPG sector earlier this year by the oil ministry, industry sources said.

Following that, IGCC now handles about 2.4 million mt/year of LPG and PGPICC controls around 2 million mt/year, they said. Kharg Petrochemicals Co. also handles a small volume and occasionally issues export tenders.

Pertamina has also had a term contract with Petredec since 2007 for one to four 44,000 mt cargoes/month, one source said.

Other sources said the contract, which runs until December 31, 2018, supplies up to five cargoes/month.

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Author: Joel