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Japanese Refiners Put The Brakes On Iranian Crude Imports

Unable to secure a waiver extension from Washington to continue buying Iranian oil, Japanese refineries are putting the brakes on further imports in order to give payments enough time to be processed under the existing waiver.

In total, Japanese refiners purchased over 15 million barrels of Iranian crude from January through March, but the waiver expires in early May and payments still have to be processed for those cargoes, Reuters reports, citing industry sources and data from Refinitiv Eikon.

In order to avoid sanctions violations, all necessary transactions with banks and insurance companies must be finalized before the waiver expires, with the last cargo set to arrive in Japan on April 9.

A handful of countries have received waivers from Washington since sanctions were imposed on Iran, including Japan, China, India, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Taiwan, and South Korea. Iraq also received a waiver to continue importing electricity and natural gas from Iran. Earlier this month, Washington renewed that 90-day waiver.

In the meantime, anonymous sources cited by Bloomberg indicate that the extension of sanctions waivers has become a hotly disputed topic in the corridors of Washington, with infighting between the National Security Council and the U.S. State Department growing as the expiration of the current sanction waivers draws near. 

The NSC camp, led by John Bolton, is lobbying for an end to waivers entirely; while the DoS camp, led by Mike Pompeo, is calling for waiver extensions for allies in need.

Related: The One Thing That Could Derail The U.S. Oil Boom

Nonetheless, yesterday, Brian Hook, the State Department’s special representative for Iran, told VOA that the “policy of the United States is that we are not looking to grant any new oil waivers”.

“We did have to grant eight oil waivers in order to avoid shocking the global oil markets and causing a dramatic increase in the price of oil. We have taken off roughly 1½ million barrels of Iranian crude, and we have avoided a price increase in oil. And that’s not an accident. We’ve done it very well and very carefully. 2019 is going to be a much better market for global oil supply, and the forecasters say that there will be more supply than demand. That gives us much better market conditions to accelerate our path to zero imports,” Hook said.

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By Damir Kaletovic for Oilprice.com

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