Iran expects 4 mbpd oil output by March 2017 -state TV

ANKARA, April 6 (Reuters) - Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said the country’s crude output would reach four million barrels per day (bpd) by March 2017, state television reported on Wednesday.

“In the annual budget, the amount of oil export has been predicted around 2,250,000 bpd. This means our production this (Iranian) year will reach four mbpd,” Zanganeh was quoted as saying by state TV. The Iranian new year started on March 20.

Zanganeh said Iran’s oil output has increased after the lifting of international sanctions in January under a nuclear deal with six major powers.

Sanctions imposed on Iran in early 2012 by the United States and European Union over its nuclear programme had cut crude exports from a peak of 2.5 million bpd before 2011 to just over 1 million bpd in recent years.

Iran has rejected freezing its output at January levels, which OPEC secondary sources have estimated to be 2.93 million barrels per day, and wants to return to much higher pre-sanctions production.

“Fortunately Iran’s oil export has increased since the lifting of sanctions ... for 10 months since March 2016, Iran’s average monthly oil export was around 1,350,000 bpd,” Zanganeh said.

He said Iran’s oil exports surpassed 2 million bpd in the Iranian months of Esfand and Farvardin, which ends on April 19.

Oil prices rose on Tuesday after Kuwait said it expected major producers to agree later this month to freeze output, even as key player Iran continued to balk at the plan.

Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will meet with non-OPEC producers in Doha on April 17 to discuss a possible oil output freeze to prop up prices.

The Doha talks are expected to widen February’s initial output freeze deal by Qatar, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC member Russia.

Iranian officials have expressed Tehran’s determination to continue increasing its oil production and exports until it regains its pre-sanction market position.

Zanganeh said last month Iran would join oil production freeze discussions after its own production reached four million bpd, the Students News Agency ISNA reported.

Crude prices remain nearly 40 percent above 12-year lows struck in mid-February. A recent recovery has fizzled on scepticism over the output freeze proposed by producers. (Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Richard Chang)