India’s 50% cut in Iran oil imports raises questions

Press TV – Iran’s oil exports to Asia skid, mostly due to cuts by India which imported nearly half as much crude from the Middle Eastern country in November as the month before, new figures show.

The steep cuts appear to be in line with the Indian government’s orders to refiners to import less oil from Iran which refused to award a giant gas field at the very concessionary terms which New Delhi demanded.

India’s plan has been to lift about a quarter less Iranian crude for the fiscal year to March 2018. New figures cited by Reuters showed imports of about 266,000 barrels per day (bpd) from Iran last month, which declined by 43 percent from October and 55 percent from a year ago.

Iran’s Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh, however, said last month that oil exports to India were moving ahead normally. “The Indians are buying oil from Iran, and there is nothing special in this regard,” he said.

According to Reuters, India’s oil imports from Iran will likely rise in December, as vessels holding about 4 million barrels of oil sailed from the Iranian ports in end-November and discharged cargoes in early December.

However, India’s Essar Oil which depended heavily on Iranian oil is gradually diversifying its crude imports after Russia’s Rosneft completed its acquisition under a $12.9-billion deal in August.

The Indians have been demanding special treatment on the offshore Farzad B gas field which they discovered in 2008, but Iran has refused to submit to the demands.

US threats

The US has been looming large on the future of Iran’s oil trade with India. Increased output from US shale producers has been a major bug-bear for traditional oil producers and Asia has emerged on their radars as a new target.

More than 60% of Iran’s crude oil is shipped to Asian countries and about 40% to Europe. The country continues to retain its major Asian oil customers by offering spot cargoes as it tries hard to regain lost market share since sanctions were lifted last year.

Last month, US President Donald Trump said that because there was enough supply of oil from other countries, it was possible to limit the purchase of oil and its derivatives from Iran.

Zangeneh said then a possible boycott of Iran’s crude oil as sought by Trump would affect the market.

“Iran’s oil supply to the market is up to 2.5 million barrels a day, and the removal of this amount would definitely affect the market,” the minister said.

South Korean imports 

Customs data released by South Korea on Friday showed the country’s oil imports from Iran in November dropped to the lowest level since June, but it attributed reduced shipments to production issues.

South Korea is a major customer of Iran’s ultra-light oil known as condensate, which the Islamic Republic is increasingly keeping at home for use as feedstock in its new petrochemical units.

Iran plans to gradually stop all its condensate exports and use them in production of materials with better added value.

According to the new data, South Korea imported 316,575 bpd of Iranian oil in November, 21.6 percent down from October and 25.2 percent lower from a year earlier.

South Korea’s oil imports from Iran in the first 11 months of this year, however, jumped 36.5 percent to 372,890 bpd or 17 million tonnes, compared with 12.45 million tonnes over the same period last year.