U.S. Looks To Find Alternatives To Iranian Oil For Allies

The United States—which is pushing to have all Iranian oil customers stop importing crude from Tehran—is looking for alternative oil supplies for its allies whose imports will be disrupted by the U.S. sanctions on Iran, the Financial Times reported on Thursday, citing a senior U.S. administration official.

While during the previous U.S. and EU sanctions on Iran between 2012 and 2015, the U.S. Administrations had issued waivers for Iranian oil imports for some of its allies like South Korea, Japan, and India, this time the Trump Administration has adopted a much tougher stance and is pushing to bring Iranian oil exports down to zero.

After a meeting with India’s most senior politicians earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the United States would consider waivers “where appropriate”, but reiterated that the United States eventually expects to bring Iranian oil exports to zero.

“We have told the Indians consistently, as we have told every nation, that on November 4th the sanctions with respect to Iranian crude oil will be enforced, and that we will consider waivers where appropriate, but that it is our expectation that the purchases of Iranian crude oil will go to zero from every country, or sanctions will be imposed,” Secretary Pompeo said, noting that many countries would need “a little bit of time to unwind.”

South Korea, Japan, and India are all negotiating waivers, but until they receive clarity on the issue, South Korea and Japan are not risking sanctions in case they won’t get exemptions.

South Korea did not import any Iranian oil in August, compared to 194,000 bpd in imports from Iran in July, according to tanker-tracking and shipping data compiled by Bloomberg.

Japanese refiners have temporarily suspended oil imports from Iran, buying alternative supplies and watching the situation closely should waivers be forthcoming, the president of the Petroleum Association of Japan (PAJ), Takashi Tsukioka, said on Thursday.

Looking to win waivers, India is reportedly significantly reducing Iranian oil purchases this month and next. India’s imports from Iran are expected at 360,000 bpd-370,000 bpd for September/October compared to 658,000 bpd for April-August, according to data from trade sources obtained by Reuters.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com