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Iran’s Top Oil Customers Resist U.S. Calls For Zero Imports

Iran’s Top Oil Customers Resist U.S. Calls For Zero Imports

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Just a few days before U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil exports return on November 5, the keywords about how much of Iran’s oil will come off the market are ‘lack of clarity’.

On the one hand, it’s unclear how much Iranian oil will really be removed from the market, considering that Iran has already started to switch off transponders on board of some of its cargoes, although ship-tracking data on the tankers that can be tracked shows that Iranian oil exports are falling, but not as steeply as the market and analysts were expecting just a month or two ago.

On the other hand, it’s unclear whether the United States would grant any waivers, with U.S. Administration officials giving mixed signals.

Yet, one thing is clear, and here analysts were right—Iran’s top two single largest oil customers, China and India, will continue to import Iranian crude. Although China and India’s Iranian oil intake in recent months has fluctuated, and although some of their companies most exposed to the U.S. financial system have drastically reduced or outright stopped imports from Iran (like India’s Reliance Industries), the countries saw their imports in the first three weeks of October increase or hold steady around the volumes from recent months.

According to S&P Global Platts trade flow data, Iran’s oil shipments to China between October 1 and 21 averaged 800,000 bpd, up from around 600,000 bpd average for September. Last year, average Chinese imports of Iranian oil were 602,500 bpd, Platts has estimated.

About half of China’s crude oil and condensate imports from Iran in October, around 400,000 bpd, were bound for a storage hub in Dalian in northeastern China, according to Platts sources and shipping data. The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) has reportedly leased some storage capacity at Dalian.

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