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Sinopec, CNPC Stop Buying Iranian Oil In May

China’s two largest oil companies, CNPC and Sinopec have not ordered any Iranian oil cargoes to load this month after the expiry of the sanction waivers Washington had granted China and seven other Iranian oil importers, Reuters reports, citing unnamed sources.

The news comes despite statements from Beijing that it will not comply with the U.S. sanctions against Iran and will continue trading with the country including buying crude oil from it. China is the biggest buyer of Iranian crude, most recently at a rate of 475,000 bpd, over the first quarter of 2019. That amount is above the quota that the U.S. assigned to China as part of the waiver.

The Reuters sources said, however, that the refiners are worried about sanction violation penalties as both have enough exposure to the U.S. banking system to be vulnerable to such penalties. Even so, one of the sources said, Sinopec was unwilling to breach its long-term supply contract with Tehran. This probably means the company will look for ways to circumvent sanctions.

Meanwhile, all of Iran’s oil clients are looking for alternatives, and they are finding them, but at a higher price: Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the UAE were quick to assure the market they would step in and boost exports to fill the Iranian oil gap after the U.S. announced that no waivers would be renewed. Soon after, Saudi Arabia said it would hike prices for Asian clients for June delivery shipments in response to requests for additional deliveries. Higher prices are not something that would make either China or India happy, but their options are limited.

Despite Washington’s determination to completely stop the flow of oil from Iran to foreign markets, few believe that the zero-export target is achievable, even though the sanctions have done some considerable damage to Iran’s coffers. The U.S. special envoy for Iran Brian Hook last month estimated the losses suffered by Tehran in oil revenues at US$10 billion.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on May 10 2019 said:
    You must be deluding yourself if you believe for one minute that CNPC and Sinopec will stop buying Iranian crude. China doesn’t recognize US sanctions and will never stop importing Iranian crude now or ever particularly that it is preparing to retaliate against the recent hiking of US tariffs on $200 bn of Chinese exports. The same applies to India and Turkey.

    As a superpower in its own right, China with the world’s largest economy doesn’t need authorization from the United States to buy Iranian crude. Moreover, China is capable of nullifying sanctions against Iran by buying the entire exports of Iranian oil estimated at 2.125 million barrels a day (mbd) and paying for them in petro-yuan.

    Therefore it is high time for the US special envoy for Iran Brian Hook to stop bragging about losses suffered by Iran and accept that US sanctions have so far failed miserably to stop Iranian oil exports exactly as the US-backed coup and regime change in Venezuela have failed.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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