China's crude imports from Iran are up 11 percent in the first four months of
the year against the same period in 2006.
A shift in Iran's sales to China could serve many interests. China's
state-owned refiners would avoid raiding edgy spot markets by securing more
long-term contracts, and Iran would tighten economic ties with a key U.N.
Security Council member.
Worries over Iran's nuclear dispute with the West have been a driving factor
for rising oil prices this year.
But Vaziri-Hamaneh said Iran is not concerned over the financing of mega oil
projects in the country, despite economic sanctions over Tehran's nuclear plan.
He said the country's crude output is expected to rise to 5.3 million barrels
per day (bpd) by 2014, up from 4.3 million bpd currently.
Iran has sweetened the terms of oil and gas contracts as it seeks to lure
international companies to invest in the country despite political risks, but
energy executives say they want more incentives.
The United States has frowned on deals that international companies have
signed with Iran as they look to tap the second-largest oil and gas reserves in
The minister said the reason for current high oil prices is not because of
crude supply problems.
"Now there is no shortage of crude oil in the market," he said when asked if
OPEC should release more supplies to temper high oil prices, adding that
commercial oil stocks in the United States are at a high level.
London Brent crude prices held above $68 a barrel on Monday, after a slide on
Friday as fears over slower economic growth halted a rally to near nine-month
highs over $71 last week.
Asked if oil prices would hit $80 a barrel, Vaziri-Hamaneh said: "We cannot
predict what will happen to prices now."
Vaziri-Hamaneh also vowed closer co-operation with Asia, announcing that Iran
was in talks to partner with China, Indonesia, Singapore, Syria and Malaysia to
build refineries with a combined production capacity of 1.1 million bpd.
"We are supposed to be the partner in those refineries, and also try and
provide the crude oil to those refineries," he said.
He did provide further details on these projects, though an official at the
National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) said earlier on Monday that Iran aims to
supply crude to a new refinery planned in northern Malaysia.
Vaziri-Hamaneh said Iran has finalised a deal with India's Essar Group to
build a new refinery in Iran, but did not provide details. NIOC has been in
talks with Essar to build an estimated $2 billion, 300,000 bpd