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Japan’s Refiners To Seek Extension Of U.S. Waiver To Import Iranian Oil

Japan’s oil refiners will continue to ask the Japanese government to seek an early extension of the temporary U.S. waiver to import oil from Iran, the head of the Petroleum Association of Japan (PAJ), Takashi Tsukioka, said on Tuesday.

Ahead of the return of the U.S. sanctions on Iran’s petroleum industry, Japan had completely stopped buying Iranian oil, hoping to get a waiver from the U.S. Administration. It did, alongside seven other Iranian oil customers, including the biggest buyers China and India, all of whom will now be able to continue importing reduced volumes of oil from Iran for 180 days after the sanctions snapped back on November 5, until early May 2019.

South Korea, which had also stopped Iranian oil shipments ahead of the sanctions and waivers, also plans to resume buying oil from Tehran during the 180-day waiver period.

Now that Japan has received the waiver, it will resume loading Iranian oil, with most shipments expected to be made in the period from January to March next year, Reuters quoted PAJ’s president Tsukioka as telling reporters today. Some refiners may load Iranian oil as early as around end-December, he said.

Yet, after the end of March, Japanese refiners are likely to stop loading oil from Iran again, unless they secure a waiver extension by that time, Tsukioka noted.  

Even if some refiners decide to resume exports next year, they may be able to load Iranian oil only in January and February, and probably March, according to various industry sources who spoke to S&P Global Platts recently.

First, refiners would want to have cleared all Iran-related transactions ideally by end-April. Then they will be able to use the Japanese government-backed shipping insurance for Iranian cargoes at the end of March, when the current insurance coverage expires. In addition, by that time, the United States will have expected more cuts from Iranian oil customers even with the waivers, and it’s not clear whether any waivers would be extended beyond the six-month period ending in May.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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