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Iran's Energy Exchange Ready for Domestic, Overseas Oil Sales

Petroleum products, including 35,000 tons of mazut and 1 million barrels of gas condensates are traded at IRENEX every two weeks
More than 100 companies, including petrochemical plants, refineries and power plants, offer their commodities at the exchange.More than 100 companies, including petrochemical plants, refineries and power plants, offer their commodities at the exchange.

Iran could resume selling crude oil to domestic and international buyers through the commodity market, the chief executive of Iran Energy Exchange (IRENEX) said.

"We are ready to start selling crude at the energy exchange. Oil trade can begin within three days if the Oil Ministry gives the go-ahead," Seyyed Ali Hosseini was quoted as saying by IRNA.

IRENEX has the necessary infrastructure to handle crude oil transactions, he said.

"For us, there is no difference in trading mazut, condensates or oil. The first two are already on offer and crude oil can be traded as well," said the official.

According to Hosseini, 35,000 tons of mazut and 1 million barrels of gas condensates are traded at IRENEX every two weeks.

"The ground is ready for foreign customers' transactions. More than 140 companies listed overseas are operating at IRENEX," Hosseini said without elaboration.

IRENEX is a market for trading energy futures and commodities, including oil, gas, electricity, petrochemicals and oil byproducts. It was launched in 2013 as the fourth official Iranian exchange and operates under the supervision and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Organization of Iran.

More than 100 companies, including petrochemical plants, refineries and power plants, offer their commodities at the exchange, according to the IRENEX website.

The Oil Ministry tested the waters for selling crude in the commodity market in 2014, offering 100,000 barrels of oil per day at IRENEX, but the move got lukewarm response from buyers, primarily because the crude oil was not priced competitively.

The oil offered at the time was reportedly meant for consumption at home, but plans call for  a mechanism that would allow future oil purchases via IRINEX to be made available directly from the southern terminals for export. It is also said that transactions can be carried out via both rial and the dollar, offering more flexibility in trade.

--- Doubtful Scheme

However, doubts linger about the plan's success and future viability. 

Traditionally, the sale and export of crude oil has been a monopoly of the government. Tehran turned to foreign agents and dealers to export oil when the international sanctions were tightened in 2011 and 2012 and undermined its financial and trade relations and cut oil exports.

Those moves led to the emergence of dealers such as the jailed ex-tycoon Babak Zanjani who amassed billions of dollars from selling Iranian crude under the sanctions regime. According to Iranian newspaper 'Sharq', President Hassan Rouhani, who took office in mid-2013, eliminated the middlemen and made crude export the responsibility of the Oil Ministry.

Taking stock of Iran's strong rebound in the global oil market over the past year and the lifting of sanctions in Jan. 2016 that removed the impediments to raising exports and collecting oil revenues, analysts argue that there is little incentive to offer oil in the  commodity markets.

Iran now pumps around 3.8 million barrels per day of crude oil and condensates. It sold an average of 2.83 million barrels of crude per day last month. The country is forecast to sell $41 billion worth of crude oil and condensates by March when the fiscal year ends.

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