Independent refiners in China boosted imports of oil from Iran between August and October, attracted by the cheaper Iranian crude despite the risk of running afoul of U.S. sanctions, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing tanker-tracking data and traders.
Officially, Iran's oil is under U.S. sanctions, and few buyers are willing to risk breaching those for fear of being sanctioned for dealing with Tehran themselves. Independent Chinese refiners, however, have never really stopped buying Iranian crude, although China's state giants are steering clear of trade with Iran's oil.
Official Chinese customs data have shown that the world's largest crude oil importer has not imported any oil from Iran so far this year. But tanker-tracking firms estimate that not only independent Chinese refiners are buying Iranian crude, but they have also raised the volumes of purchases in the past three months.
Between August and October 2021, China imported on average 560,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian oil, per data from Vortexa Analytics cited by Reuters. That's higher than the 478,000 bpd average for June and July estimated by Vortexa.
In August, China imported as much as 660,000 bpd of Iranian crude, another 545,000 bpd in September, and 470,000 bpd last month, Vortexa Analytics data showed.
Sanctioned Iranian crude is cheaper than other oil from the Middle East, and has drawn more purchases from China in recent months amid a rally in international crude oil prices.
In September, reports emerged that the United States had approached China about the latter's crude oil imports from Iran, seeking to pressure Iran into nuclear deal negotiations through its biggest oil client.
Iran said at the end of October that the Islamic Republic and EU countries could resume the so-called nuclear talks by the end of this month.
The EU and Iran have agreed to "start the negotiations aiming at removal of unlawful & inhumane sanctions on 29 November in Vienna," Iran's top negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani tweeted last week.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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