Iran oil-market share grab seen dimming prospect for freeze

Iran’s plan to keep boosting crude production until it regains its OPEC market share is dimming prospects of collective action by major producers to freeze output, according to Patrick Allman-Ward, chief executive officer of Dana Gas.

“I’m not overly optimistic about an oil freeze being agreed,” Allman-Ward said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Dubai on Sunday. “There’s pressure with Iran working to increase production. The environment is not that conducive to a freeze.” Dana Gas produces hydrocarbons from Egypt to Iraq and sells condensate, a light oil.

Iran lost its position as OPEC’s second-largest producer after the U.S. and European Union tightened sanctions on its economy in 2012. While the country supports action to stabilize the market, it won’t participate in a freeze in output before regaining its pre-sanctions share of OPEC production, state-run news service Shana reported Friday, citing Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh.

OPEC said this month that its members will discuss markets at a September gathering of the International Energy Forum in Algiers.

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A freeze would be the group’s first decision to limit output since OPEC adopted a Saudi-led plan in 2014 allowing members to pump more to protect market share. Benchmark Brent crude has gained about 11 percent since OPEC announced the September talks and traded 1.5 percent lower at $49.15 a barrel at 2:08 p.m. in Dubai.

“Oil can trade at more that $50 a barrel by the end of this year even without a freeze as markets continue to balance,” Fabio Scacciavillani, chief economist of the Oman Investment Fund, said in a television interview Monday on ‘Bloomberg Markets Middle East.’ “OPEC countries need the income. It’s not in their interest to halt output. Iran will expand production as much as it can.”

Members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia failed to agree at a meeting in Doha in April to limit production after Iran declined to attend and Saudi Arabia refused to proceed without all of the OPEC states participating. Suhail Al Mazrouei, energy minister of the United Arab Emirates, said Saturday on Twitter that any OPEC policy decision must include all members.

“The key to a successful freeze agreement will once again likely be Iran,” Barclays analysts including Miswin Mahesh and Kevin Norrish wrote in a note dated Aug. 28. Supply and demand in crude markets are already coming into balance, Barclays said, forecasting that Brent will rise to $50 a barrel in the fourth quarter from an average $45 in the three months through September.

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Producers that destabilized oil markets have the greatest responsibility to steady them, Zanganeh said, according to Shana, without identifying any such countries. Iran should be let to recoup its share of global sales, he said.

Iran has regained about 80 percent of the market share it held before sanctions intensified in 2012, Mohsen Ghamsari, director of international affairs at National Iranian Oil Co., said in a July interview. Ghamsari said at the time that Iran was exporting about 2 million barrels of its daily output of 3.8 million. It’s now pumping about 3.85 million barrels a day, Zanganeh told Fars news agency on Aug. 10.

Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s biggest producer, is willing to discuss a possible freeze, Khalid Al-Falih, the country’s oil minister, said Friday in an interview. Al-Falih said he doesn’t “believe that an intervention of significance is required” and doesn’t support a production cut. The kingdom boosted July output to a record 10.67 million barrels a day, according to OPEC.

Iran will be wary of curtailing its output when Saudi Arabia, Iraq and other producers may seek to sell more, Robin Mills, chief executive officer of consultant Qamar Energy in Dubai, said Sunday by phone.

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“If Iran’s not in the agreement, that torpedoes it,” he said.

Desley Humphrey and Hussein Slim contributed.