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Iran Withholds Oil Deliveries As It Seeks Higher Prices from China

Iran seeks higher prices for its crude going to its top customer, China, and has been withholding some supply, Reuters reported on Friday, citing trading and refinery sources.

China has continued to buy cheaper crude from Iran even after the U.S. re-imposed sanctions on Iranian oil in 2018.

But now Iran is reportedly seeking narrower discounts to Brent for its crude supply to China, which has led to a “stalemate” between Iran and its Chinese customers.

Iran has sought discounts of $5 to $6 per barrel for its light crude for December and January compared to Dated Brent, trading sources who handle the crude have told Reuters. The deals for December and January were agreed in November at prices of around $10 per barrel discounts to Brent.

It’s not clear if the Chinese refiners would accept the new price, a trading executive based in China told Reuters.

At least one independent refiner based in Shandong has accepted the higher prices and bought a cargo at the narrower discounts in late December, trading sources told Reuters.

“The buyers are still struggling to find a solution as the new prices are too high,” a Chinese buyer based in Shandong.

“But since they have limited choices and the Iranian side is very tough, the room for price negotiations is difficult and is not favouring Chinese buyers.”

Higher prices for Iranian crude would squeeze profit margins for the independent refiners who haven’t shied away from buying supply from Iran after the U.S. sanctions were re-imposed. Moreover, the increase in Iran’s crude prices for Chinese customers could also reduce the availability of cheap crude supply for the world’s largest crude oil importer, which is saving billions of U.S. dollars by purchasing sanctioned oil.  

China was estimated to have saved $10 billion on crude oil imports between January and September 2023 as it imported record volumes of cheaper oil from Russia, Iran, and Venezuela—all three under U.S. and Western sanctions, a Reuters analysis showed last year.    

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By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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