The US could extend waivers from sanctions on Iranian crude and product purchases if current sanctions on Venezuela significantly impact global oil supply and prices, Brian Hook, the US State Department’s special representative for Iran signaled Wednesday.Hook’s comments, made at CERAWeek by IHS Markit, were the first public indication that the Trump administration was open to extending the Iran sanctions waivers, and seemed to be a softening of Hook’s previous public stance that the waivers would likely expire in May as part of the US goal to push Iran crude exports to zero.  Still, Hook said the decision on waivers will be made by President Trump, who is closely watching oil prices.

“He has made it very clear that we need to have a campaign of maximum economic pressure … but he also doesn’t want to shock oil markets, he wants to ensure a well-supplied and stable oil market,” Hook said. “When you have a better-supplied oil market it enables us to accelerate our path to zero, but we also know that there are a lot of variables that go into a well-supplied and stable oil market.”  Hook pointed to US Energy Information Administration projections that global oil supply will outweigh demand in 2019, indicating that aemoval of US waivers on Iranian imports could be done without dramatically impacting the market.

“We are very happy, given our goal is to get to zero imports [of Iranian crude] as quickly as possible; we are very happy to see projections that supply will exceed demand,” he said. “It’s very helpful and we hope that that continues because it just makes it a lot easier.”  Still, he said several variables, including US sanctions on PDVSA, which have helped push Venezuelan oil production below 1 million b/d, could change that.