Reuters: Indian refiners have asked top exporter Saudi Arabia for more oil for August, sources said, as they fear Iran will halt supply of 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) as Tehran escalates a seven-month long payment suspension triggered by U.S. pressure.
By Nidhi Verma and Amena Bakr
NEW DELHI/DUBAI, July 20 (Reuters) – Indian refiners have asked top exporter Saudi Arabia for more oil for August, sources said, as they fear Iran will halt supply of 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) as Tehran escalates a seven-month long payment suspension triggered by U.S. pressure.
Iran has threatened to stop shipments in August as India’s $5 billion debt for unpaid oil mounts. The dispute started in December 2010 when India’s central bank stopped clearing payments through a previous payment mechanism.
United Nations and United States sanctions do not forbid buying Iranian oil, but the U.S. has pressed hard for governments and companies to stop dealing with Iran and sanctions on the financial sector have made it harder to trade.
A solution is in sight, a U.S. official in India said on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. U.S. treasury officials are working with India to resolve the impasse, the official said, without giving further details. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is visiting India.
“India’s Bharat Petroleum , Hindustan Petroleum and Essar Oil have each asked for one million barrels extra for August,” from Saudi Arabia, a source with knowledge of the matter said.
With only 11 days to go before the end of July, Iran, India’s second-biggest supplier after Saudi Arabia, has yet to tell Indian refiners what shipments will load in August, two sources at Indian state-run refiners said.
India is Iran’s second-largest oil buyer after China. While Indian refiners wait to hear if Iran will supply them in August, Tehran has already given refiners in China notice of their cargoes for August, one Chinese buyer of Iranian crude said.
Indian refiners had already turned to Saudi Arabia in July as talks to find ways to pay sanctions-hit Iran for crude worth about $12 billion a year struggled to find a solution acceptable to India’s allies, especially the United States.
Saudi Arabia could supply India with a blend specially made to substitute for disruption in Iranian supplies, a Gulf industry source said, and Abu Dhabi National Oil Co (ADNOC) had a few requests and is willing to supply, a UAE-based oil economist said.
Saudi Arabia has boosted supply unilaterally to meet rising global demand after an OPEC meeting in June failed to agree to raise output. Regional rival Iran has been among the most vociferous members of OPEC opposing any increase in output.
Indian refiners have also looked to the United Arab Emirates for more supply, and have shown interest in buying August loading cargoes of Iraq oil in the spot market, traders said.
In physical crude markets, most trade for August has been completed and transactions are under way for September, leaving Indian refiners with limited supply options to plug any gap from Iran.
As the dispute has dragged on, Indian refiners have begun to look at long-term alternatives for supply.
Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd is in talks to increase oil supply from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and further afield to hedge against any future supply disruption from Iran, the firm said in its annual report.
“Considering the enhanced level of sanctions against Iran in future, non-resolution of current (payment) crisis, the availability of Iranian crude may be difficult,” it said, adding supply may not continue indefinitely. (Reporting by Nidhi Verma in NEW DELHI, Amena Bakr in Dubai, Alejandro Barbarosa in SINGAPORE, Judy Hua in BEIJING and Reem Shamseddine in Kobar; Writing by Jo Winterbotoom in NEW DELHI Editing by Simon Webb and Manash Goswami)