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EghtesadOnline: The lifting of international sanctions last year has allowed Iran to receive billions of dollars in blocked oil revenues, but the country has yet to collect €4.5 billion ($4.85 billion) for the crude oil it sold before and during the sanctions, says the chief executive of National Iranian Oil Company.

"The debt of Indian refiners is €2 billion. A delegation from the Central Bank of Iran traveled to India to discuss and settle the debt," Ali Kardor told a news conference on Saturday, Shana reported.

Under the strict economic and banking restrictions, many oil importers could not pay their bills and as months passed the debts ballooned to the obvious detriment of the Iranian economy. 

Kardor named Greece, Italy and Morocco as other major debtors, but did not give a breakdown of the amount of their debt, Financial Tribune reported.

Essar Oil, the top Indian buyer of Iranian oil, cleared $500 million of its debt in June.

Anglo-Dutch energy giant Royal Dutch Shell paid €1.77 billion ($1.9 billion) it owed the NIOC last year. Italian oil refiner Saras has reportedly paid €100 million ($112 million) of its total debt (around €350 million). Greece’s biggest oil refiner Hellenic Petroleum paid its first installment in June that amounted to €100 million.

Iran and the six world powers (five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) struck a historic deal in July 2015 to lift most financial and trade restrictions against Tehran in return for curbs on its nuclear program. The deal came into force January last year.

------- Oil, Gas Production

Kardor pointed to record volumes of crude oil and natural gas being produced after the embargo was eased and reiterated that Tehran is keen to reassert its position in the global energy mix.

"Oil production has reached 3.9 million barrels per day and will hit 4 million bpd by the end of the present (fiscal) year" in March, Kardor said.

"Exports of crude oil and gas condensates will reach 3 million barrels per day in February. At one point, shipments to Europe touched 900,000 bpd in December," he added.

According to Reuters, Iran's oil exports to Europe was forecast to total a little more than 610,000 bpd in January and nearly 590,000 in February, compared with a high of almost 800,000 bpd in December, the most since the sanctions were lifted.

The news of Iran's rising oil supplies comes at a time when OPEC and some non-OPEC members have agreed to cut output by 1.8 million barrels per day during the first half of 2017 and there have been reports in the international media about "strong compliance with planned cuts."

Under the deal, Iran may lift crude production and export, but its average output through the first half of the year should not exceed 3.8 million barrels per day.

Iran's gas production has soared to 840 million cubic meters per day from a total of 490 mcm/d in mid-2013, when President Rouhani took office. Nearly two-thirds of the country's gas supplies come from South Pars, the giant gas field shared by Iran and Qatar in the Persian Gulf. 

Data show that Iran's output from South Pars has soared by 250 mcm/d over the past three and a half years, bordering on 500-mcm/d. In the previous fiscal year alone, gas production at South Pars increased by nearly 100 mcm/d.

Kardor speculated that Iran will tap into the oil layer of South Pars field next month.

"Harsh climatic conditions in the South Pars region (in the Persian Gulf) have slowed our drilling operations. But we will start extracting oil from South Pars' oil layer at about 30,000 bpd in March", said the official.

The NIOC will announce new contracts to develop oil and natural gas in mid-February in the country's first such tender since the lifting of international sanctions a year ago.

"The plan was to hold the first tender at the end of January, but it will be held with a two-week delay on February 15," said the NIOC chief. "Twenty-nine companies have been qualified, but we want to add more companies to the list."

NIOC Ali Kardor Iran sanctions Iran oil Iran oil revenues