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India to continue buying Iranian crude despite United States sanctions threat

10 October 2018

Pradhan reportedly said Monday that India does not know if it would get a waiver from the U.S.

File image of Dharmendra Pradhan.

Iran's crude exports fell further in the first week of October, according to tanker data and an industry source, as buyers sought alternatives ahead of US sanctions that take effect on November 4. Pradhan said India has its own energy requirements which need to be fulfilled.

"We have ordered for our usual quantity of oil", he said.

"Refiners have placed November nominations to lift 1.25 million tonnes (about 9 million barrels) of oil from Iran", a source has told Reuters.

Some analysts predict as much as 1.5 million barrels per day could be removed from the market, an event that could cause prices to rise further.

Washington is also asking buyers of Iranian oil to slash imports to zero to force Tehran to negotiate a new nuclear agreement. Paying in rupee is an option. This likely means we won't see any serious buying this week unless the price is right.

India is Iran's second-largest single oil customer after China and was expected to cut back on Iranian oil purchases following USA sanctions.

Iran has warned that if it can not sell its oil due to USA pressure, then no other regional country will be allowed to do so either, threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz.

India had planned to import about 25 MT of crude oil from Iran in 2018-19, up from 22.6 MT imported in 2017-18.

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in India last month that the White House would only consider waivers for Iran's oil buyers if they vowed to eventually bring their imports to zero.

In May, before US President Donald Trump announced reinstating sanctions against Tehran, the International Monetary Fund had projected Iran's economy would grow by 4.0 percent in 2018 and again next year.

While the persistent fear of a supply shortfall triggered by sanctions on Iran coming into effect by early November had provided the market the thrust upwards, the huge flow of speculative capital prompted by worries over supplies has created huge net-long futures positions for financial investors which has exerted an exaggerated price action. USA sanctions will block payment routes.

UCO Bank had in the previous round of sanctions handled rupee payments.

India, Iran's top client after China, has close diplomatic ties with Iran, where it is building a strategic port called Chabahar that is expected to be operational by 2019. It began clearing the dues in 2015 when the restrictions were eased.

Oil has been supported by concern that the Iranian export loss will leave a thinner margin of unused production capacity to deal with supply shocks.

Drillers cut two oil rigs in the week to October 5, bringing the total count down to 861, energy services firm Baker Hughes said in its weekly report on Friday.

Speaking at the "The Energy Forum" in New Delhi on Monday, he said the world's third-largest oil importer did not know whether it would receive a waiver from USA sanctions.

Now, crude prices have come off the boil, having lost about $3 a barrel from the highs of last week and $10 from the rate a month ago.

Iranian oil is a lucrative buy for refiners as the Persian Gulf nation provides 60 days of credit for purchases, terms not available from suppliers of substitute crudes - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Nigeria, and the US.

India to continue buying Iranian crude despite United States sanctions threat