Part 2: Key Facts on Iranian Oil

January 11, 2012

Annika Folkeson

Tension has increased between Iran and the United States over the past weeks after the United States imposed new sanctions and Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz. The following are key facts on Iranian oil.

  • Iran holds the world’s fourth-largest proven oil reserves and the world’s second-largest natural gas reserves. International sanctions and unfavorable investment terms, however, have impeded developments across the energy sector.
  • Iran is OPEC’s second-largest oil producer and the third-largest crude oil exporter in the world.
  • Iran has an estimated 137 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, 9.3 percent of the world's total reserves and over 12 percent of OPEC reserves.
  • Saudi Arabia, which has been producing about 10 million barrels per day, has an overall production capacity of over 12 million barrels per day and is widely seen as the only OPEC member with sufficient spare capacity to offset major shortages.
  • But Iran — the world’s fourth largest producer — pumps about 4 million barrels per day, suggesting that other Gulf states would also have to up their output to offset the decline.
  • Iran relies on crude sales for about 65 percent of its of its public revenues, and sanctions or even a pre-emptive measure by Tehran to withhold its crude from the market would batter its already flailing economy.
  • China, which bought 11 percent of its oil from Iran during the first 11 months of last year, has cut its January purchase by about 285,000 barrels per day, more than half of the close to 550,000 bpd that it bought through a 2011 contract.[1]
  • China, Japan, India and South Korea together import more than 60 percent of Iranian oil exports.[2]