As the USA sanctions on import of Iranian crude oil loom large, India is engaged with the European Union for an alternative channel for making payments to Tehran for buying petroleum products, sources said Wednesday.
The refiners in question - Indian Oil Corp, Nayara Energy and Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals - will route payments through UCO Bank and IDBI Bank, which have domestic branches in Iran and don't have any exposure to the US.
The US had promised waivers to countries importing from Iran heavily, if they promise to reduce their imports.
Many refiners in Japan, the world's fourth-biggest oil consumer, say they are resigned to completely halting imports from one of their historically important suppliers, unlike during a previous round of sanctions when they only reduced imports from Iran.
Earlier, India was looking at the possibility of falling back on the rupee-rial arrangement for importing oil from Iran in the wake of U.S. sanctions.
"It is my view that each firm is taking the same stance and temporarily suspending (the loading) and watching the situation carefully", Takashi Tsukioka, the President of the Petroleum Association of Japan (PAJ), said when asked if Japanese refiners plan to halt Iranian loadings from October. Some sanctions took effect from August 6 while those affecting the oil and banking sectors will start from November 4.
However, cutting imports to zero from Iran is unlikely because India simply can not switch to more expensive sources of crude oil overnight without adverse short-term effects on its already-widening current account deficit and dramatic adjustments to its refineries, which are calibrated to process Iranian oil.
India risks being cut off from the United States financial system if it continues to maintain financial transactions with Iran without a waiver.
The rupee can be used by Iran to pay for imports from India. These channels would get blocked from November. It began clearing the dues in 2015 when the restrictions were eased. New Delhi has said that technical configuration of many refiners makes it dependent on Iran.
"Previously we settled 45 per cent of our trade in rupees this time it could be 100 per cent". India is the second-biggest client of Iran and sources almost one-tenth of its crude supplies from there.
Sourcing from Iran increased to 12.7 MT in 2015-16, giving it the sixth spot.
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.
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