Doubts if Saudis can replace lost Iranian barrels

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The move by South Korea, one of Iran's main customers in Asia along with China and Japan, comes as it is in talks to seek an exemption from U.S. curbs on buying Iranian oil, in line with a waiver it received during previous sanctions, Reuters reported.

"Trump sends every day a new message that creates uncertainty in the oil market", Bijan Zanganeh said in an interview with Iranian broadcaster IRIB.

Zanganeh added that neither Iranian oil production nor its exports had changed as a result of United States pressure.

"In our view, a complete cutoff of Iran exports would be very hard to manage and likely result in an oil price spike above $120/bbl".

However, it has not produced more than 10.42 million bpd on an annual basis or 10.63 million bpd in a single month in the last 20 years.

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OPEC and other producers including Russian Federation agreed last month to boost output by around a million barrels a day, reversing course after supply cuts that cleared a global glut and boosted prices.

Oil prices could jump steeply to cross $120 per barrel in a not-to-be ruled out scenario of zero Iranian exports combined with Opec's lack of preparedness to offset the huge supply deficit, market analysts said.

Saudi Arabia accounted for nearly two-thirds of the reported OPEC spare capacity (2.02 million bpd), with smaller volumes held by Iraq (330,000 bpd), United Arab Emirates (330,000 bpd) and Kuwait (220,000 bpd).

Experts are also doubtful if Saudi Arabia can mobilize its forces rapid enough to boost its oil production and specifically maintain the rise over a long period of time.

Blanch is skeptical that the kingdom could pump 12 million or more barrels a day.

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The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other countries agreed earlier this month to a modest increase in output to dampen a rally in oil prices, which recently hit a 3-1/2 year high.

"Maximum production would require opening the chokes on existing wells and bringing previously shut-in wells back into service", Reuters added.

Domestic stocks had been drawn down to 234 million barrels at the end of April, the lowest level since November 2011.

They argued that since Saudi Arabia had never pumped more than 10.6 million bpd, could it now increase production and make up for any missing Iranian volumes?

Based on that assumption, they added, zero Iran exports could push oil up by $US50 a barrel if Saudi Arabia caps out.

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