TOKYO Jan 7 Two Japanese buyers of Iranian
crude, Idemitsu Kosan and Cosmo Oil, are
unlikely to raise imports from the Middle Eastern country even
after sanctions were eased as part of an initial deal on
Tehran's disputed nuclear programme.
Executives with the two refiners said on Tuesday they have
no plans to increase their contract volumes following the
November deal between world powers and Iran that allowed Tehran
to keep oil exports at around 1 million barrels per day (bpd),
about half of pre-sanction levels.
Japan's biggest importer of Iranian crude, JX Holdings Inc
, had also earlier said it would not be increasing its
Iran volumes in 2014.
That is in contrast to China, which may buy more Iranian oil
this year as a state trader is negotiating a new light crude
contract that could raise imports from Iran to levels not seen
since tough sanctions were imposed in 2012.
Idemitsu has already cut its Iranian crude contract volume
for the year ending March 31 to 5,000 barrels per day (bpd) from
7,000 bpd a year ago, but it has no plans to halt its Iranian
imports and end its decades-old relationship with Tehran.
The reduced amount is the minimum level for purchases to
make commercial sense, Idemitsu President Takashi Tsukioka told
Reuters at a New Year gathering for Japan's oil industry.
At the same event, Cosmo Oil President Keizo Morikawa also
said his company is unlikely to increase purchases from Iran.
"It is unlikely we can raise volumes now because (domestic)
demand is declining," he said, adding that it remains unclear
how much it would be allowed to import under U.S. sanctions.
Cosmo Oil will slightly reduce its Iranian oil imports from
April, after its current annual contract expires, an industry
source familiar with the matter told Reuters in November.
Cosmo has cut its Iranian imports to 15,000 bpd or less in
the business year through March 2014, from 40,000 bpd two years
ago, industry officials have said.
As part of the November deal, buyers of Iranian oil, most of
whom are in Asia, are no longer required to continuously reduce
purchases from the OPEC member to qualify for a waiver from U.S.
sanctions every six months.
JX renewed its annual contract for importing crude from Iran
for 2014 with volumes steady to slightly lower compared to last
year, an official said last month.
Japan struggled to cut its Iranian crude purchases last year
after reducing them more than 40 percent in 2012.
Japan imported about 178,539 bpd of Iranian oil in the first
11 months of 2013, down 4.6 percent from the previous year,
trade ministry data showed last month.
(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Aaron Sheldrick and