Crude imports from Iran down 1.9pc

First-half year-on-year fall buoys case for waiver extension on US sanctions against Tehran

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 July, 2013, 3:56am

The mainland's daily crude oil imports from Iran fell 1.9 per cent year on year in the first half of this year, making it easier for it to stake another claim to a waiver extension on US sanctions against Tehran.

Countries that import Iranian oil must make steady cuts in their volumes to continue to receive six-month exemptions from United States sanctions aimed at cutting off Iran's oil revenues and bringing it to the negotiating table over its nuclear programme.

Beijing won a six-month waiver last month, along with other Asian importers of Iranian crude, and officials have said mainland refiners were likely to cut imports from Iran by 5 to 10 per cent this year. The next waiver review is due in November or December.

The drop in first-half volumes came on top of a 21 per cent cut in purchases from Tehran in the first half of last year after a contract dispute slashed shipments in the first quarter of 2012.

Imports from Iran last month were also sharply down compared with the same month last year and from May this year.

"It looks like China was getting a bit more aggressive with its cut in June in order to meet its overall target for the year," said Victor Shum, managing director of downstream energy consulting at IHS.

The mainland, Iran's largest oil customer, imported 424,183 barrels of Iranian crude a day in the first six months of the year, data from the General Administration of Customs showed yesterday,

Compared with the second half of last year, imports were down 4.6 per cent.

The main cuts for the year could come from Unipec, the trading vehicle of Sinopec, as the state refiner has come under more political pressure compared to the unlisted state trader Zhuhai Zhenrong, which was blacklisted by Washington early last year.

US and European measures aimed at Iran's oil exports have cost Tehran billions of US dollars in lost revenue each month, although the volume reductions can fluctuate from month to month.

The mainland imported 1.582 million tonnes, or 384,980 bpd, of Iranian crude last month, 31 per cent below the volume imported in May, customs data showed.