DUBAI Oct 18 Iranian gasoline imports have
slumped by as much as 95 percent over the last four years,
according to official government data, as rising refinery
capacity and lower fuel subsidies help neutralize western
sanctions aimed at starving Tehran of fuel.
Iran's inadequate refinery infrastructure and rampant
internal demand intensified Iran's gasoline import dependency
until 2007 -- a vulnerability that western governments have
targeted by blocking fuel supplies to pressure Tehran over its
disputed nuclear programme.
But gasoline imports have fallen from 204,000 barrels per
day (bpd), or 32.47 million litres a day in June 2007 to at
least a 10-year low of 10,000 bpd (1.59 million litres) in June
2011, according to Joint Data Initiative (Jodi) figures, while
seasonal peak imports were down nearly 70 percent in January
2011 from highs of 244,000 bpd in January 2007.
Thanks to fuel rationing, a four-fold pump price hike and
Iran's increasing ability to refine its own oil, the share of
imports in Iran's gasoline supplies has dipped from around 40
percent a few years ago to less than 5 percent, putting pressure
on Washington and Brussels to find new ways to squeeze Tehran
"The enemies planned to push the country toward crisis and
difficulties by halting sale of gasoline but the oil industry
staff ... through relentless efforts, could raise production of
gasoline to prove they can offset sanctions easily," Iran's oil
minister, Rostam Qasemi, was quoted by oil ministry website
Shana as saying on Sunday.
According to the Iranian government, Iran's daily gasoline
consumption has fallen from around 76 million liters in 2006 to
around 60 million liters a day (376,931 bpd) in early October
2011, despite the number of vehicles doubling over the period.
"Despite increasing the number of vehicles of the country
... gasoline consumption has fallen considerably," Shana quoted
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying on national television
in early October, adding that had he not slashed subsidies daily
gasoline consumption could now be around 127 million liters.
Iran insists its nuclear plans are purely about energy but
many governments suspect they include a covert nuclear weapons
programme and have tried to starve Tehran of funds and equipment
needed to develop it.
With the impact of gasoline supply restrictions weakening
over the last few years, Washington, which has long since banned
all U.S. companies from any Iranian oil deals, has increasingly
tried to stem the flow of crude oil sales funds to Tehran.
Western powers tightened restrictions on oil and gas trade
with Iran in mid-2010 and scared off many of Iran's gasoline
suppliers, but some fuel still slips through from Asia which
also still buys large volumes of Iranian crude.
Iran's imports of gas oil and diesel oil also fell by about
27 percent from November 2008 peaks of 80,000 bpd to 58,000 bpd
in November 2010, Jodi data shows.
But is still not exporting any diesel or gasoline according
to Iranian government data available through the Jodi
(Editing by William Hardy)