* Iranian oil exports could be cut by up to 1.5 million bpd
* Exports of Iranian oil unlikely to fall to zero
* Production decline Venezuela, firm demand to help boost prices
By Jessica Jaganathan
SINGAPORE, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Iran will export significantly less oil than was initially expected when the United States first announced it would reimpose sanctions on Tehran, and that should boost prices, a senior executive at commodities trader Trafigura said on Monday.
“I think when the sanctions were first announced a number of months ago, people were estimating the cut may be 300,000 to 700,000 (barrels-per-day),” Ben Luckock, co-head of oil trading at Trafigura, told reporters.
“I think the consensus has moved to it’s going to be well beyond 1 million bpd that’s cut, and maybe 1.5 million bpd.”
Buyers across Asia have come under U.S. pressure to reduce their Iranian oil imports as Washington aims to cut exports from OPEC’s third-largest exporter to zero to force Tehran to renegotiate a nuclear treaty.
Still, Luckock says Chinese companies will likely continue to import Iranian oil, while other traditional customers may cut volumes but not reduce imports to zero.
“Export (of Iranian oil) is not going to be zero but it is going to be significantly less than it was. And probably lower than most people expected when sanctions were announced, and hence the higher (oil) prices,” he said on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Petroleum Conference (APPEC) in Singapore.
Iraqi and Mexican oil have been favoured by buyers as alternatives to Iranian crude, he said.
Also, to counter falling supply from Iran, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producers are considering raising output by 500,000 bpd.
Luckock said earlier during the conference that he expects oil prices could rise to $90 per barrel by Christmas and $100 per barrel by the New Year, from nearly $80 a barrel now for Brent crude due to robust global oil demand.
Production decline from Venezuela and firm global oil demand are also likely to boost oil prices, said Luckock, who was promoted in July from his previous role as co-head of risk.
New refining capacity being added in Asia will also likely provide incremental demand for crude oil, he said.
“These are exciting times with a bunch of new refineries coming online and a bunch of dislocation in the crude oil market around the world, so we really should have incremental volatility going forward,” he said.
Luckock also said that while this year has been challenging for the industry, next year is looking more bullish. (Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan; Editing by Tom Hogue)