(Refiles to drop word 'Persian' in paragraph 2)
* Pipeline, terminal to be used to export new grade of crude
* Country pushing to return production to pre-sanctions
* NIOC eyes end-March 2017 for Persian Gulf refining complex
By Florence Tan
SINGAPORE, Sept 6 Iran expects to complete a
pipeline and a terminal to export a new grade of crude by
year-end, boosting the country's drive to ramp up oil production
to pre-sanctions levels.
A senior official from the National Iranian Oil Company said
late on Monday that the terminal near Kharg Island in the Gulf
would be ready to export the new grade of crude, known as West
Kharoon, after the facilities were completed "sometime by the
end of this year".
Iran oil officials have said it will be ready to enter talks
on a possible oil supply freeze with other OPEC members once it
returns output to levels before sanctions were imposed on its
crude imports over the country's disputed nuclear programme.
"As soon as (the pipeline and terminal are) completed, we
will be able to segregate and export this crude," Seyed Mohsen
Ghamsari, director for international affairs at the National
Iranian Oil Company, told Reuters.
Initial production of the new grade may be just under
300,000 barrels per day, making it key in boosting Iranian
production, he said. The grade was originally expected to be
introduced to the market earlier this year.
The crude blend will be of similar quality to Iraq's Basra
Heavy crude, with an API gravity of between 22 and 26 degrees
and a sulphur content higher than 2 percent.
Ghamsari said earlier on Monday Iran is producing just over
3.8 million bpd of crude and could reach 4 million bpd in a few
"We are ready to negotiate the level of production as soon
as we come back to the production before sanctions," Ghamsari
said, adding that output was a little higher than 4 million bpd
A nod from Iran is key in getting members of the
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to agree to a deal
to freeze production which could curb excess supply globally and
support oil prices .
Tehran's aggressive moves to recoup market share, lost under
international sanctions, have paid off in Asia with July crude
imports up 61 percent at 1.64 million bpd from a year ago.
Still, crude exports to Asia and Europe, Iran's key markets,
are expected to stabilise in September after sharp rises in the
For Iranian crude exports to Asia "there won't be
significant change from July", Ghamsari said. He expects
September exports to Europe to rise to 500,000 bpd, up 100,000
bpd from July.
Iran remains in talks with Arab Petroleum Pipelines Company
(SUMED) to lease storage tanks, although the producer has been
able to increase exports to Europe without the facilities,
Ghamasari said. Low freight rates have also reduced the cost of
shipping Iranian crude to Europe, he added.
In Iran, NIOC will reduce its gasoline imports and
condensate exports once the first phase of its Persian Gulf
refinery starts up by end-March 2017, he said.
Gasoline imports have fallen this year as Iran uses more
compressed natural gas to fuel cars, Ghamsari said without
Separately, NIOC increased fuel oil exports this year to
meet robust demand, especially for the straight-run
280-centistoke grade, he said.
(Reporting by Florence Tan; Additional reporting by Rania
El-Gamal; Editing by Joseph Radford)