India boosts Iran oil imports, largely offsets China reduction - sources


India has boosted its imports of Iranian oil, becoming the Islamic Republic's largest customer last month and largely offsetting a cut in Chinese purchases as sanctions fail to dent Tehran's sales for now, people within the oil industry said this week.

"India scooped much of the crude the Chinese didn't want," one person said.

Iranian crude exports to India rose to 550,000 bpd in January, up 37.5% from December, the person said.

That partly offset a 50% cut in crude exports to China - now at about 250,000 bpd - amid a pricing dispute.

Based on preliminary figures, overall Iranian crude exports remained broadly unchanged at 2.10 million bpd, compared with 2.14 million bpd in December, amid easing seasonal demand in the first half of the year.

The news come despite the West's ratcheting up of pressure on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

The European Union has agreed on an oil embargo from July 1, and the US has pressured Asian and African nations to reduce their Iranian oil imports.

But sanctions haven't deterred India so far from buying more Iranian oil.

In recent days, it has agreed to pay 45% of its Iranian oil purchases in rupees to overcome risks its banking transfers may be disrupted.

Despite a pledge to find alternatives, South Africa also doubled its Iranian oil imports to 100,000 bpd, a person familiar with the situation said.

Indian and South African officials declined to comment.

Shipments to Europe - which include both the EU and Turkey - stood at 700,000 bpd, according to the person.

But based on preliminary figures, direct deliveries - outside the Suezmed pipeline - to Greece fell by 25,000 bpd to 85,000 bpd, the person said.

Dow Jones Newswires

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