Tehran(ANN)-Iran’s Ministry of Petroleum says the coronavirus has not affected Iran’s oil and gas production and that the virus containment at the oil industry has successfully been fulfilled.
“It has had no effect on Iran’s oil production and we are producing as before. Of course, we have seen a decline in transportation and consumption inside cities,” Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh said Wednesday.
“The production and distribution of Iranian oil and gas is carried out without any effect from the virus outbreak,” deputy head of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) Farrokh Alikhani also said.
Iran’s oil industry is under the harshest US sanctions ever as part of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” on Tehran for not submitting to Washington’s steep demands.
Zangeneh headed to Vienna Wednesday to attend a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
OPEC and its allies outside the organization are expected to consider making substantial oil production cuts to lift prices that have been battered by the coronavirus outbreak.
Participants at the so-called OPEC+ meeting will reportedly try to bring Russia on board for cutting a further 1 million barrels per day from their output to shore up prices which have gone down 20 percent since the start of the year.
Asked by reporters on Wednesday whether Russia would accept the request, Zangeneh said, “”I don’t know, we have to see.”
“The Russians will be resisting to the last minute a decline in oil production so as not to reduce any (production) numbers,” he said.
According to Zangeneh, OPEC+ panel, the Joint Technical Committee (JTC), has recommended a cut of at least 500,000 bpd in the second quarter.
“The oil market is currently facing a surplus in supply due to the spread of the coronavirus. It is imperative that OPEC and non-OPEC producers do their best to balance the oil market,” he said.
There is already a deal in place among Russia, OPEC and other producers to cut output from Jan. 1 by 2.1 million bpd.
Oil exports account for a major part of Iran’s foreign currency earnings which trickle into almost all aspects of livelihood in the country. Hence, the American chokehold mostly hurts ordinary Iranians.
President Donald Trump said on Saturday the US was willing to help the Iranians with the coronavirus outbreak, adding “all they have to do is ask,” just after he authorized the expansion of travel restrictions against Iran.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the offer, saying it doubted the sincerity of the American leaders. Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said the offer was “hypocritical”, while the United States was imposing new sanctions on the Islamic Republic every so often.
On Saturday, as Trump said the US war ready to aid Iran, his deputy Mike Pence detailed the American president’s heightened travel bans against Iranians.
The US State Department said Friday it had formally told Iran of the United States’ willingness to assist in unspecified ways through a message sent via Switzerland, which represents US interests in Tehran.
Mousavi touched on a Swiss channel announced in December to bring food and medicine to Iran, saying the US government has even been stonewalling efforts to have it up and running.
Ali Ahmadi, a resident in Tehran, said the US has already made it difficult for Iranians, including its scientists, to travel there.
“Now that the virus has appeared, we expect nothing less from America,” he said, expressing widespread frustration with US policies on Iran.
Iran’s oil exports have sharply declined under the US sanctions, but the coercive measures have prompted the country to streamline its economy and raise non-oil exports.
The dark clouds of the sanctions have also contained a silver lining for many Iranian companies which have landed major deals in oil, gas and other industries, formerly given to international energy giants.
The sanctions have spawned an inward-looking drive in Iran, especially in its oil industry which has gone out of its way to put unprecedented trust in local companies for implementation of some major projects.