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More Iran crude in pipeline

New Delhi, Jan. 23: India could increase crude oil imports from Iran as hopes of a further easing of sanctions by the West grow following observations by the IAEA inspector that Tehran has suspended critical uranium enrichment activities.

“With the changing scenario, Iranian crude will be actively considered. The amount of import from Tehran can increase if the easing of sanction addresses business concerns,” sources said.

State-owned MRPL, HPCL, Indian Oil and private refiner Essar are the major buyers of Iranian crude.

India had planned to lower its crude imports from Iran by 15 per cent to 9-9.5 million tonnes (mt) in 2014-15 from an estimated 11mt in 2013-14, if the sanctions were not eased.

However, the imports can be raised if the sanctions are suspended along with the easing of restrictions on insurance and payment, an oil ministry official said.

Essar Oil and MRPL — two of the largest importers of Iranian crude — are expected to ship 4-4.5mt each at the end of the current fiscal, while IOC is expected to import around 1mt, the official said.

“We were importing 21 million tonnes (in 2009-10) of oil from Iran. If the sanctions get resolved, we can go back to 21 million tonnes,’’ officials said.

India imported 18.5mt of crude from Iran in 2010-11. This came down to 17.4 mt in 2011-12 and 13.3 mt in 2012-13.

“Iran is a great source of oil and gas. Once the problem being faced by Iran is solved, there will be more oil and gas in the market and prices will tend to soften. As an importing country, this will certainly benefit us. We welcome any decision in the world that enhances the supply of oil and gas,” the official said.

Joao Cravinho, the EU ambassador to India, had last week indicated that the sanctions against Iran could be lifted if the International Atomic Energy Agency found that Tehran was making rapid progress in controlling its nuclear programme. He said an interim deal with Iran could be worked out next month after reviewing the progress of the preliminary agreement reached in November last year.

MRPL and HPCL had suspended crude imports from Iran in April. However, MRPL resumed the imports in August even as HPCL desisted till clarity emerged on the insurance issue.

Since July 2011, India has been paying in euros for 55 per cent of the purchase of Iranian oil through Ankara-based Halkbank. The remaining 45 per cent is remitted in rupees in accounts Iranian oil companies opened in Calcutta-based Uco Bank.

The refiners have accumulated over $2-2.5 billion in dues to Iran ever since payment through Halkbank was stopped in February.

 
 
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