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Silly Dictator Story #10: Iran's Oil Output Apparently At Record Levels

Iran is going to need a few more tankers.
By most accounts, sanctions have severely affected Iranian oil output. But that’s not the case if you ask one of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s most senior advisers.

Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani, director of the Office of the Supreme Leader, told a group of clergymen and scholars in Gilan Province that Iran “is currently producing between 19 and 20 million barrels of oil a day.” (You can read Radio Farda's original report in Persian here.)

This news probably comes as a shock to Iran’s partners in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) -- and to global oil markets. If Golpayegani is to be believed, Iran produced nearly two-thirds of OPEC’s total June output of 30.5 million barrels. However, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, Iran -- OPEC’s second-largest producer behind Saudi Arabia -- saw oil production slip by nearly 200,000 barrels (from 3.1 million to 2.9 million) from the previous month.

Golpayegani's statements are in direct conflict with Iranian Deputy Oil Minister Ahmad Qalebani who was quoted by a state news agency tied to the oil ministry as saying, “Iran is currently producing about 4 million barrels of oil a day,” on July 11.

Beyond the rhetorical conflict, the claim of 20 million barrels of crude coming from Iran every day borders on the unbelieveable. The number would mean that Iran produces more than twice as much oil as Saudi Arabia (9.9 million barrels per day), and almost 10 times more than neighboring Iraq (2.9 million barrels per day).

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Radio Farda, Parviz Mina, who served as director of international affairs for Iran’s state oil firm under the shah, said oil production was at its highest in the late 1970s, but even then never reached more than 6 million barrels per day.

Iran has become a net importer of refined gasoline products in recent years, mainly as a result of international sanctions and their effect on infratructure investment in the country. The problem is exacerbated by a lack of refineries in Iran, which means domestic demand for gasoline outstrips supply. Iran actually imported as much as 130,000 barrels of refined gasoline daily in 2009. Although Bloomberg reports that the government has recently taken steps to tackle this issue, it is still importing some 50,000 barrels every day.

Perhaps Golpayegani should have announced a rapid expansion of refinery capacity in Iran. That would give Iranians something to celebrate.

-- Zach Peterson & RFE/RL’s Radio Farda

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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