Sputnik: The US is anxious that maritime transport routes for Iranian oil are not transparent, as Iranian vessels allegedly turn off their automatic identification system (AIS) transponders or transmit false information about their cargo.
According to the Americans, Iran, bypassing international sanctions, uses tactics for enabling secret oil sales abroad by so-called "ghost tankers". Is that true? Does Iran use "ghost tankers"?
Zangeneh: We use any methods; we do our best [to export oil] and do not give up [in the face of restrictions and sanctions]. "A good fight is never clean". Export of oil is our legitimate right.
Sputnik: What are Iran's plans for oil industry development? Recently, the head of NIORDC (National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company) announced that petrochemical plants would be built in the northern regions near the Caspian Sea.
Meanwhile, Iranian ecologists say the ecological situation with garbage alone in the Caspian provinces of Iran has reached a critical point. Is this true? Will the construction of an oil refinery near the Caspian lead to an environmental disaster?
Zangeneh: We do not have much demand for the construction of an oil refinery near the Caspian Sea because we do not produce oil there, and we are unlikely to be able to transfer oil from the southern regions to the Caspian.
Therefore, we prefer to build new refineries in the southern parts of the country. However, on the Caspian, we plan to build two safe petrochemical plants that 100% meet environmental requirements.
In general, the petrochemical industry in Iran has reached an acceptable level: its production brings about $18 billion [in revenue]. We plan that the [revenue-generating capacity] of the petrochemical industry in the next two years will reach $25 billion, and after six years – $37 billion.
Sputnik: In light of the tensions in the Strait of Hormuz – the main waterway for the world's oil exports –in mid-August Iran announced that in two years (in 2021) it could export its oil bypassing the Strait of Hormuz. Please elaborate on the details of this project.
Zangeneh: Yes, for this purpose we are building a new oil terminal in the Makran region near the city of Jask (a city and the capital of Jask County, Hormozgan Province, Iran – ed. note Sputnik), whose export capacity will be one million barrels of oil per day. An oil pipeline is also under construction in that area. We hope that everything will be completed, God willing, by 2021, and the project will be launched.
Sputnik: Is Iran building it relying exclusively on its resources, or does it plan to attract investment?
Zangeneh: We rely only on our resources, but we welcome investments, particularly from Russia.
Sputnik: What can you say about the prospects for Brent crude oil prices? What is your forecast?
Zangeneh: No one can predict future oil prices. What we are saying are only estimates, speculation. Market prices mainly depend on supply and demand and various other factors, particularly on politics and social issues. The price of [Brent crude] oil now remains at about similar levels, and I believe that there will not be a big spike in prices ahead.
Sputnik: But can Iran offer new benchmark crude that could eventually join Brent, WTI, Dubai Crude or supplant them?
Zangeneh: No, I never said that before. This is a very long and complex process when oil can have its benchmark. This is rather difficult to achieve.
In conclusion, Bijan Namdar Zangeneh, answering a question about Iranian petrol, said that Iran managed to get rid itself of import fuel dependence of fuel completely, noting that despite the sanctions introduced in 2012, Iran has now begun to export petrol itself. Shortly, it plans to increase exports to 3 million tons per month, which will be about $1.5bln in revenue.