Iran’s private sector oil exports to European and Asian countries have topped 20 million barrels during the past four months, the director of the country’s Petrochemicals Exporters Union has said, the Iranian press reported on Wednesday.

Hassan Khosrojerdi said that Iran’s private sector would make “several shipments” of crude oil over the coming days and that the sales had been made without the involvement of the state-owned Iranian National Oil Company (NIOC).

“Negotiations with foreign companies for several shipments of oil via the private sector have now come to a close and soon several new shipments of oil will be sent to their intended markets,” the Iranian Student’s News Agency quoted Khosrojerdi as saying.

Referring to the banking sanctions, the oil embargo and to sanctions barring EU-based insurance companies from covering tankers carrying Iranian oil, Khosrojerdi said that the private consortiums had “completely neutralized sanctions on foreign exchange transactions, on insurance and on Western oil tankers.”

According to Khosrojerdi, Iran has made up new guidelines for foreign exchange currency earned from oil sales.

To deal with insurance sanctions, domestic insurance agents will cover the Iranian oil tankers, he added.

China, which has continued to buy Iranian oil, has already shifted responsibility for tanker insurance to Tehran to circumvent the EU sanctions.

According to Iranian Student’s News Agency, Khosrojerdi said that Iran’s private sector oil consignments are sold at a price set by NIOC, and that the daily average amount of sales would reach 700,000 barrels per day in the next half year.

The plan to use private companies to circumvent the oil embargo is part of a wider sanctions-busting campaign coordinated by the Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Guard, which has been sanctioned for activities relating to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, controls large swathes of the country’s oil industry, which accounts for 50 percent of government revenue and 80% of Iran’s exports.

Iran first announced its plan to create a private sector consortium to sell oil to international markets, including the EU, in July, days after the European Union embargo on the import, purchase and transport of Iranian crude came into effect on July 1.

Before the sanctions, the 27 EU member states had accounted for almost a fifth of Iranian oil exports.

In July, Khosrojerdi said the consortium agreement had been signed by Iran’s Central Bank, the Petroleum Ministry and the Petrochemicals Exporters Union. The consortium would sell some of its oil to privately owned European refineries, Khosrojerdi claimed.

The Petrochemicals Exporters Union director said that the National Iranian Oil Company had agreed to the plan.

Last month, the US Treasury Department designated NIOC an “an agent or affiliate” of the Revolutionary Guard, a move that enables Washington to sanction any foreign banks dealing with the company.

In its report on NIOC, the US government said that the Revolutionary Guard had coordinated a campaign to evade sanctions and sell Iranian oil, particularly as the Revolutionary Guard’s influence over NIOC has grown.

The Revolutionary Guard, whose commander Mohammad Ali Jafari has called it the “vanguard” of Iran’s economy, has gained considerable influence over the country’s lucrative oil and gas industry, including over NIOC.

Last year, the Iranian government appointed Rostam Ghassemi, a brigadier-general in the Revolutionary Guard, as petroleum minister.

Ghassemi is the former commander of Khatam-ol- Anbia, the Revolutionary Guard’s construction and engineering branch and main economic arm, and since his ministerial appointment last August has expanded the Guard’s interests in Iran’s oil sector, declaring that “while I have become a public servant in the oil ministry, my entire existence is in the Guards and I shall remain this way.”

Despite Iran’s assurances that its plan to use the private sector to evade oil sanctions was working, figures reported on Wednesday showed that imports to Tehran’s leading oil customer, China, fell around a quarter this month compared to the same time last year.

However, China’s imports of Iranian crude rose by 3% compared with last month’s figures. China bought 382,400 barrels per day, up 3% from 371,000 bpd in August, according to Reuters.

Iran has also threatened this week to cease oil sales altogether if the West intensifies sanctions.

Petroleum Minister Ghassemi told a Dubai energy conference on Tuesday that Iran has contingency plans to run the country without oil revenue.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger