Iran posted higher-than-expected oil shipments in October signaling its last hurrah before US sanctions come into effect this week, underscoring the looming supply risk and the importance of exemptions to soften the blow. But the path for OPEC’s third largest producer is only going to get tougher with exports expected to slide this month as key buyers start to reduce their reliance on Iran’s oil.  Iranian crude and condensate shipments in October averaged close to 1.92 million b/d, provisional data from S&P Global Platts trade flow software cFlow showed Monday.

This was slightly down from September and August when shipments were at 1.95 million b/d and 1.98 million b/d, according to Platts estimates.  But Iranian oil shipments to its two biggest customers — China and India — have been very high in the past two months, according to cFlow data.  State-owned National Iranian Oil Company has also sent almost 20 million barrels of crude and condensate into leased storage in China as it prepares for life after sanctions.

There also continues to be a number of Iranian tankers that have shut off their global satellite tracking systems suggesting that shipments last month could have been higher.  Shipments have fallen by 800,000 b/d from April when exports averaged 2.7 million b/d in April, a month before the US withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and said it would reimpose sanctions.