The series of US sanctions against Iran resurfaced, again with oil on the front line. The President of the United States, Donald Trump, has indeed created a little surprise by announcing, Monday, April 22, that it ended the exemptions granted in November 2018 to eight countries allowing them to import Iranian crude.
As of May 2, China, India and Turkey, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Italy and Greece should therefore be exposed to US retaliation if they continue to buy Iranian oil.
In a statement, the White House recalls a campaign of "Maximum pressure" against Iran, intended to put an end to "Destabilizing activities" from Tehran to the Middle East. The objective is to " to reduce Iran's oil exports to zero, depriving the regime of its main source of revenue She says.
In March, Iran still exported 1.7 million barrels per day (MMBD), according to the specialized agency S & P Global Platts, including just over 600,000 to China.
According to Washington, Greece, Italy and Taiwan have already stopped their purchases. Japan and South Korea should follow. On their side, " China, India and Turkey may be tempted to cut their imports of Iranian oil but in exchange for US concessions on other subjects Says Francis Perrin, research director at Iris, for whom Iran should come out very weakened from this confrontation. By the spring of 2018, the country was still exporting 2.5 million barrels a day.
An already tense oil market
The American announcement immediately pushed up the price of a barrel. In Europe, Brent (London-listed oil) is at its highest for six months, above $ 74. Since the beginning of the year, prices have risen by almost 40%.
This rise comes in an already tight market. As demand continues to grow, OPEC and 10 other countries, including Russia, decided in December 2018 to reduce their production by 1.2 million barrels per day (mbd). Added to this is the political crisis in Venezuela and tensions in Libya that weigh on global supply.
But today Donald Trump assures that his decision will not push prices up and evokes a concerted measure. "The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, three of the largest energy producers in the world, with our friends and allies, are committed to ensuring that the world's oil markets remain adequately supplied"said the White House.
The United States, new kings of oil
An uncertain evolution of the price of a barrel
It is therefore not sure that oil prices are flaring up again. Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih has also said he is ready to " stability " of the oil market. " Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates can increase their production capacity fairly quickly and should do so. It is a lift from the United States to weaken their Iranian enemy Judge Francis Perrin.
In May, OPEC (of which Iran is a member) and its allies are to meet in Vienna to decide to continue the limitation of production beyond June. The discussions promise to be lively. " For many countries, this agreement is very expensive and some are tempted to open the floodgates. This is particularly the case in Russia "Says Ruben Nizard, an economist at Coface, which relies on a barrel between $ 65 and $ 70 on average over the year.
The American shale revolution
In the United States, in any case, the situation has changed. Oil production is now above 12 million barrels a day, a level never seen before. Imports fell to their lowest level since 1996, at just under 6 mbd.
This revolution is linked to the development, over the past decade, of shale oil, which today represents nearly 7 million barrels a day. The Permian Basin, located on the border of Texas and New Mexico has even become the world's first hydrocarbon field, in front of the Saudi Ghawar field, with more than 4 million barrels a day. " Donald Trump can afford to be tough on the Iranian oil issue because he knows he has some of the solution Francis Perrin analyzes.
"The price of gas is a real marker"
According to the International Energy Agency, the United States should become a net exporter of oil in 2021, with a 25% increase in production, a halving of imports, and a flat consumption. But this scenario is not unanimous. " American shale oil growth will be weaker than expected, for reasons of profitability and rising production costs "Judge Benjamin Louet, Analyst at Ofi Asset Management. According to him, the best wells could also have already been drilled.
Threats on the Strait of Hormuz
The commander of the Revolutionary Guards Marine, the elite unit of the Iranian army, threatens to block the Strait of Hormuz if Iran is no longer allowed to pass through its oil, under the gun US sanctions. " According to international law, the Strait of Hormuz is a sea passage and if we can not use it, we will close it. "General Alireza Tangsiri told the Fars news agency. " In case of threat, we will defend Iranian waters without hesitation ". A quarter of the international oil trade passes through the Strait of Hormuz.