As the prospects for a nuclear deal improve, Asians line up for Iranian oil

Some of Asia’s biggest refiners are betting on a positive outcome to negotiations. Once international sanctions are lifted, Tehran could boost crude oil production by one million barrels per day to pre-sanctions levels and more. China, South Korea, India and Japan are vying for a slice of the pie.

Tehran (AsiaNews) – As world powers seek an agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme, at least six Asian refiners are already vying for a slice of the country’s oil production. In fact, the removal of international sanctions should see the output of Iranian oil increase by one million barrels per day.

The 5+1 group of great powers (US, Russia, Britain, France, China and Germany) and Iran are set to meet tomorrow in Lausanne. In the Swiss city, they have time until 31 March to reach a framework agreement that would reassure the international community with regard to the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. In exchange, Iran would see the lifting of economic and financial sanctions that have burdened it for decades.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif are also scheduled to meet for direct discussions tomorrow. Both are cautiously optimistic that a full deal can be worked out by the 30 June deadline.

As talks continue despite some opposition, India’s Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd. and Japan’s Cosmo Oil Co. are anticipating more supply from the Middle East producer if sanctions are lifted.

At least two South Korean companies and some Chinese petrochemical giants are also getting ready to buy Iranian oil.

Iran exports 1 million to 1.1 million barrels of crude a day, down from 2.5 million a day before the sanctions took effect in mid-2012, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Iran was the second-biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries before the sanctions pushed it into fifth place.

Last month, the country’s daily output was 2.78 million barrels compared with 3.58 million in December 2011.

Iranian officials said they plan to add a million barrels a day in a few months if sanctions are suspended, confident that the country can boost output to pre-sanction levels within nine months.