* Imports fall as India, other Iran clients ease off buying
* Essar Oil, MRPL were only two Indian importers of Iran oil
* Iran 8th largest crude supplier to India in April, down
By Nidhi Verma
NEW DELHI, May 14 India cut its monthly Iranian
crude imports by 42 percent in April from March, in a further
sign that Asian oil buyers are reining in an early-2014 spree
that took Tehran's exports well past levels allowed under an
interim deal with the West.
The six-month deal, implemented on Jan. 20, allowed Iran
access to $4.2 billion in frozen oil funds and crude exports of
about 1 million barrels per day (bpd) in exchange for Tehran
taking steps to curb its nuclear programme, which Western
nations fear may be aimed at building a bomb.
Six world powers and Iran launch three-day talks in Vienna
on Wednesday, aiming to find a permanent resolution to the
decade-old dispute over Tehran's nuclear work despite scepticism
a final deal is possible.
India, Iran's top client after China, shipped in about
225,000 bpd of the republic's oil in April, the lowest in four
months, according to tanker arrival data obtained from trade
sources and compiled by Thomson Reuters Oil Analytics.
India's oil imports from Iran in April, the first month of
new annual contracts with Tehran, nearly doubled from a year
ago, the data showed. The imports in the first four months of
2014 surged 49 percent versus last year, the data also showed,
with the biggest increases coming in the first quarter.
India and other top buyers of Iranian oil - China, Japan and
South Korea - let their purchases rise sharply in the first
three months of the year, after the temporary deal easing some
sanctions on Tehran went into effect in January.
In March, Iran's top four clients - China, India, Japan and
South Korea - imported 1.15 million bpd of Iranian crude and
condensate, down from February's 1.37 million bpd, the highest
aggregate imports in more than two years.
That surge in the first quarter brought a private warning
from the United States for India to hold its Iran oil buys to
end-2013 levels of about 195,000 bpd, but there have been few
signs of pressure on other buyers.
U.S. officials have said they expect Iran's average daily
exports to drop to 1 million bpd for the six months of the
temporary deal by the time it expires on July 20.
Tanker loading schedules that were seen by Reuters in April
indicated that the imports by Iran's top clients should fall
again in May.
Essar Oil and Mangalore Refinery and
Petrochemicals Ltd were the only two Indian refiners
that purchased oil from Iran in April.
State-run MRPL and Indian Oil Corp plan to keep
their annual purchases from Iran at last year's levels of about
80,000 bpd and 25,000 bpd, officials at the companies said.
Iran's share of Indian crude imports dropped to about 5.4
percent in April, the tanker arrival data showed. In comparison,
Iran accounted for about 16.4 percent of India's oil imports in
2008/09 and 5.7 percent in 2013/14.
Tehran was the eighth largest crude supplier to India in
April, down from fourth in March and recovering from the 11th
position a year ago, the tanker data showed.
Overall, India imported about 4.15 million bpd in April, up
about 4.4 percent from a year ago, the data showed.
(Editing by Tom Hogue)