New Delhi: Indian state refiners will cut oil imports from Iran in 2017/18 by a fifth, as New Delhi takes a more assertive stance over an impasse on a giant gas field that it wants awarded to an Indian consortium, sources familiar with the matter said.
India, Iran’s biggest oil buyer after China, was among a handful of countries that continued to deal with the Persian Gulf nation despite Western sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear programme.
However, previously close ties have been strained since the lifting of some sanctions last year as Iran adopts a bolder approach in trying to get the best deal for its oil and gas.
Unhappy with Tehran, India’s oil ministry has asked state refiners to cut imports of Iranian oil. “We are cutting gradually, and we will cut more if there is no progress in the matter of the award of Farzad B gas field to our company,” one of the Indian sources said.
Indian refiners told a National Iranian Oil Co (NIOC) representative about their plans to cut oil imports by a fifth to 1,90,000 barrels per day (bpd) from 2,40,000 bpd, officials present at the meeting said.
Indian Oil Corp and Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Corp will reduce imports by 20,000 bpd each to about 80,000 bpd. Bharat Petroleum Corp and Hindustan Petroleum Corp will together cut imports by about 10,000 bpd to roughly 30,000 bpd, they said.
In turn, NIOC threatened to cut the discount it offers to Indian buyers on freight from 80 percent to about 60 per cent, the officials added. No comment was available from the Indian companies or NIOC.
Cutting imports from Iran amid an OPEC-led supply cut aimed at propping up the market exposes India’s refiners to the risk of struggling to find reasonably priced alternatives.
“We expect that the market is currently undersupplied and that the draws in inventory are coming,” US investment bank Jefferies said in a note to clients this week, adding it expected crude prices of around $60 a barrel by the fourth quarter.
Despite this, Indian oil industrials said they saw no major impact from cutting Iranian imports, mainly due to their specific requirements.