New Delhi, May 27 (Agency) Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) on Thursday said it can buy up to 2 million tonnes of crude oil from Iran if sanctions are lifted and terms are attractive. BPCL Director (Finance) N Vijayagopal said his company used to buy 2 million tonnes a year of crude oil from Iran before sanctions halted imports. ‘We will go back to that number’ once sanctions are lifted, he said. ‘If Iran offers benefits similar to what it used to offer (like) extended credit period, we can buy up to 2 million tonnes.’ India stopped importing oil from Iran in mid-2019 following sanctions on the Persian Gulf nation by the Trump administration.
US President Joe Biden’s administration and Iran have been involved in talks to revive the nuclear deal in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), the nation’s largest oil firm, and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) too had earlier this month expressed hope of resuming oil imports from Iran once the sanctions are lifted. BPCL bought 1.15 million tonnes of crude from the US in the last financial year, he said adding it would not be possible to replace dependence on the Middle East in the long run.
Iranian oil coming into the market will not just cool prices but also help India diversify its import basket. In 2020-21, Iraq was India’s biggest oil supplier, followed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Nigeria was the fourth-largest supplier and the US was the fifth. India — once Iran’s second-biggest customer — imports more than 85 per cent of its oil needs. Previously, 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. Also, it offers shorter voyage savings on freight costs.
Iranian exports tumbled after former US President Donald Trump tightened sanctions in 2018 and ended waivers for some countries in 2019, including India. Iran and world powers last month began their most serious attempt yet to resurrect a nuclear deal. Iran re-started a banned nuclear programme after Trump pulled out of the deal and re-imposed sanctions on Iran. Even though new US President Joe Biden wants to rejoin, both sides say the other must make the first move. India was the second-biggest buyer of Iranian oil after China before sanctions halted supplies in May 2019.
Iran in 2017-18 was its third-largest supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia and met about 10 per cent of total needs. Till 2010-11, Iran was India’s second-biggest supplier of crude oil after Saudi Arabia but Western sanctions over its suspected nuclear programme relegated it to the seventh spot in the subsequent years. In 2013-14 and 2014-15, India bought 11 million tonnes and 10.95 million tonnes, respectively from it. Sourcing from Iran increased to 12.7 million tonnes in 2015-16, giving it the sixth spot. In the following year, the Iranian supplies jumped to 27.2 million tonnes to catapult it to the third spot.