Trade Data: India's Nov Iran Oil Imports Skid To Lowest Since Feb 2016


NEW DELHI, Dec 14 (Reuters) - India's refiners imported nearly half as much crude oil from Iran in November as the month before, ship tracking data showed, cutting purchases to a 21-month low in protest at Tehran's decision to award a giant gas field to a Russian company.

India, the world's No. 3 crude oil consumer, received about 266,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil from Iran last month, a decline of 43 percent from October and 55 percent from a year ago, according to a review of tanker arrival data from trade sources and numbers available on Thomson Reuters Eikon.

For the fiscal year to March 2018, Indian refiners have opted to order about a quarter less Iranian crude as Tehran decided to award development rights for its huge Farzad B gas field to Russian rivals instead of an Indian consortium that discovered the field.

For April-November, the first eight months of this fiscal year, India shipped in 19 percent less Iranian oil at about 427,200 bpd, according to the data.

But India's oil imports from Iran will likely rise in December, as vessels holding about 4 million barrels of oil sailed from the Iranian ports in end-November and discharged cargoes in early December, the data showed.

Iran, facing the potential threat of further U.S. sanctions, has also cut oil prices in efforts to retain Asian customers and boost the appeal of its crude compared with other Middle Eastern supply.

Last month's drop in Iranian crude purchases left the Middle East's slice of India's overall oil imports squeezed to 57 percent in November from about 69 percent in October. Iraq continued to be the top oil supplier to India, followed by Saudi Arabia, the data showed.

India's imports of Iraqi oil surged in November when Basra Light discounts widened to 30-70 cents a barrel compared with official selling prices.

Meanwhile African oil's share of India's overall imports climbed to about 16 percent in November from about 10.5 percent in the previous months, as supplies from the region, mainly Nigeria, improved after a repair to a key pipeline in late October.

Most of the Nigerian cargoes were received by India in the first fortnight of November, indicating that refiners lifted buying in October, a month for which Brent's premium to Dubai narrowed averaged $1.55 a barrel.

Elsewhere, Latin America's share of India's oil imports jumped to about 19 percent in November from 12 percent the month before on higher intake of Mexico's Maya crude, the data showed.

Mexico's crude oil exports had already surged in October to 1.35 million bpd, the highest since September 2016.

Mexico emerged as third-biggest supplier replacing Iran, which tumbled to seventh position. Nigeria replaced Venezuela as the fourth-largest supplier.

India's Essar Oil, which used to depend heavily on Iranian oil is gradually diversifying its crude imports under new management led by Russia's Rosneft. The private refiner took two very large crude carrier (VLCCs) shipments of Mexican Maya grade in November, the data showed. Overall India imported 4.7 million bpd oil in November, meaning growth of about 12 percent from a year ago as the country raised its refining capacity.

(Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)


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