India raises Iran oil imports in April to highest since Oct 2016 as U.S. sanctions loom

Reuters – India’s oil imports from Iran surged to 640,000 barrels per day (bpd) in April, its highest level since October 2016, according to data from shipping and industry sources, as refiners raised purchases ahead of looming U.S. sanctions against Tehran.

Overall, India imported 4.51 million bpd in April, 2.5 percent higher than a year ago, the data showed.

India’s Iranian imports rose by 49 percent from March and were 20 percent higher than a year ago, the data showed. The country is the Iran’s second-biggest buyer of crude after China.

State refiners have raised their imports after Iran agreed to steep shipping discounts.

Iran exported a total 2.6 million bpd of crude in April, a record since the lifting of sanctions in January 2016, according to the news service for the country’s oil ministry.

Going forward, however, Iran’s oil exports are expected to fall. U.S. President Donald Trump earlier in May announced the withdrawal from a 2015 agreement between the United States, Iran and other world powers to limit Iran’s nuclear program.

The United States intends to renew economic sanctions against Iran, including on the petroleum sector.

India’s Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said on May 12 that it is too early to say how the sanctions will impact India.

In the first four months of 2018, India imported 552,000 bpd from Iran, about 2 percent less than a year ago, the data from the sources showed. The sources declined to be identified as they were not authorized to speak with media.

India’s 2018 Iran oil purchases fell because of lower intake by state refiners in the March quarter.

New Delhi imported 16 percent less oil from Iran during the 2017/18 financial year as state-refiners reduced purchases after a row over development rights for an Iranian natural gas fields.

Iran remained the third-biggest oil supplier to India last month followed by Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the data showed.

Venezuela replaced Nigeria as the fourth-biggest supplier as the South American nation pushed more barrels in India and curtailed supplies to the U.S.

India received about 397,200 bpd of oil from Venezuela in April, the highest since September, up about 46.8 percent from a year ago, the data showed.

Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Christian Schmollinger