Source of picture: irantrip1wordpress.com
By John Richardson
IRAN'S ability to further develop its oil, gas and petrochemicals sectors has received further major blows from new rounds of United Nations and US sanctions.
One June 9, the UN approved a fourth round of sanctions on the country, including restrictions on financial transactions, a tighter arms embargo and authority to seize cargo suspected of being used for Iranian nuclear or missile programmes.
Then on the 24th of the same month Congress voted for yet-more sanctions, which according to this Economist article, will force "banks, insurers, energy firms and others to choose: trade with Iran and you will be barred from business with the United States."
Reliance Industries, Petronas, BP, Total and Lukoil have, according to the same article, already voted with their feet by stopping gasoline sales to Iran (the country, despite its big oil reserves, is forced to import 30-40% of its gasoline needs because of lack of development of refining).
The Economist and Bloomberg also point out that Dubai is reducing its links with Iran. The Emirate has been an important third-port route for getting Iranian goods, including polymers, into markets that would otherwise have been closed.
Tougher sanctions mean trade finance is even harder to obtain when dealing with Iran, forcing the country to seek more difficult and innovative ways to bypass the sanctions or demand cash upfront.
"It is getting an awful lot harder to justify doing any business with Iran," a senior executive with a major petrochemicals logistics provider told the blog earlier this week.
"If, say, I was to rent tank-storage space to an Iranian company and then a Western major also rented space off me, that Western company could face penalties because it had dealt with a third party that had done business with Iran."
So as trade dries up, Iran will have less money to fund oil, gas and petrochemicals growth. As we wrote last year, the previous sanctions regime was already making it extremely difficult for the country to get the technology and expertise it needed to better exploit its abundant resources.
Commenting on the Bloomberg article we linked to above, the New-York-based chemicals equity research firm Alembic Global Advisors said in a research note: "This is consistent with our view that we will see continued delays and lower utilisation rates from the Iranian crackers expected to come online during the next few years.
"As a reminder, consensus is forecasting that as much as 11% of all new capacity builds from 2010 through 2014 will be in Iran.
"Iran (has) had five large scale ethylene crackers start-ups since 2005, with an average delay of 18-24 months and average utilisation rates in the first two years of production of 50-60%."
This is good news for global supply and demand balances as the Iranian capacity wild card seems to have been removed from the pack.
But it is a crying shame for Iran and all the good people who work in its petrochemicals industry.