Given that China’s oil demand has now recovered from the COVID-19 outbreak to even higher levels than before, Iran is operating at full tilt to optimise the oil available to key ally Beijing from any and all of its fields. Principally this involves optimising output from the cluster of supergiant fields in the West Karoun oil region, attempting to increase the average recovery rate from older fields, and pushing forward on production increases from fields shared with Iraq and Kuwait. All of this is geared to twin objectives: increasing Iran’s crude oil production to 5.7 million barrels per day (bpd) by the end of the sixth development plan (ending in 2021/22), and ensuring that it is able to provide China with the steady flow of oil that it requires. Given the variability of Russia’s support for Iran over recent years, Tehran believes that China is a better bet for Iran’s future. Like Russia, China has one of just five Permanent Member votes in the United Nations Security Council (plus the U.S., U.K., and France) but, unlike Russia, China absolutely needs both Iran in its Middle East client-state line-up, given its multi-generational ‘One Belt One Road’ strategy.
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