Iran plans a new oil terminal outside the Strait of Hormuz to protect its exports against potential problems in the Gulf and to boost shipments of Caspian oil, the oil ministry news website said on Monday.
Tehran had threatened to block the vital Gulf oil shipping route during its long standoff with the West over its nuclear programme.
The Shana website reported the head of the Iranian Oil Terminals Company (IOTC), Pirouz Mousavi, saying Iran plans to build a new export terminal at Bandar Jask, on the Gulf of Oman coast of Iran.
It would be connected to the Caspian Sea port of Neka using a 1 million barrel a day pipeline.
Mousavi said the new terminal would enable Iran to export more oil from Caspian producers and provide a fall-back option for Iran’s main export terminal at Kharg Island if there were any problems exporting Iran’s own oil from the Gulf.
“In the event of any type of problem in exporting crude oil from the Kharg terminal, this terminal can provide back up for exports,” Shana quoted him as saying.
Mousavi said the planned terminal outside – would have a storage capacity of 20 million barrels and cost around $2.2 billion to build. Kharg has 22 million barrels of storage.
Gulf exporters depend on the Strait of Hormuz to export most of their oil and Iran’s total dependence on its narrow shipping lanes is seen as a deterrent to attempting any blockade.
The United Arab Emirates hopes to open a new Gulf bypass pipeline to the Gulf of Oman this year and many companies are boosting storage facilities across the water from Bandar Jask, spurred by threats to shipping through Hormuz.
Iran has invested in import capacity at its Caspian port of Neka to enable crude swaps with Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, but it currently consumes the oil domestically because of the lack of pipeline links with ports in the south of the country, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Iranian oil officials announced a major oil field find in the Caspian Sea over the weekend, with Shana reporting preliminary National Iranian oil Company estimates of up to 10 billion barrels of oil deep under the landlocked sea.
Iran has no experience of producing oil from such deepwater fields, which Shana said are at a depth of 2,460 metres.
In the shorter term, Iranian oil minister Rostam Qasemi said on Monday that the country’s oil production capacity would increase by 1.5 million bpd by 2015, Shana said, compared to around 4 million bpd now. (Additional reporting by Marcus George; Editing by Jason Neely and Mike Nesbit)