BEIJING Dec 21 China's state-run Zhuhai
Zhenrong Corp, the firm that started Beijing's Iran oil
business, expects to maintain its crude oil contract with Tehran
at a steady volume for 2013, unfazed by tightening Western
sanctions, trading officials told Reuters.
Iran's top Asian oil customers -- China, India, Japan and
South Korea -- have all reduced imports after the United States
and the European Union imposed harsh sanctions aimed at curbing
Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
The sanctions have more than halved Iran's oil exports this
year, costing Tehran up to $5 billion a month in lost revenue.
Zhuhai Zhenrong, sanctioned early this year by Washington
for supplying gasoline to Iran, would keep importing around
230,000 barrels of Iranian crude each day in 2013, a contract
volume that has barely changed over the past decade.
This figure would be just over half the total imports this
year into China. Beijing is Iran's top oil buyer and trading
partner, buying almost half of Terhan's total exports of crude.
China was among the last batch of Asian buyers that received
Washington's exceptions to financial sanctions earlier this
But the United States wants importing countries to make
further cuts every 180 days in 2013 imports to avoid sanctions,
a State Department source said this month.
"Since Zhenrong is already on the blacklist, it fears no
more political pressure (to cut)," said a senior Chinese oil
trader with direct knowledge of Zhenrong's operations.
The ultimate customer of Zhenrong's Iranian crude supply is
state refining giant Sinopec Corp, which has yet to
conclude a separate contract with the National Iranian Oil
"The volume will be the same. No change all these years,"
said the official, who cautioned, however, that actual
deliveries could fall below the contract, as in the past months,
because Chinese refineries have relied since July on Iranian
tankers to ship the oil following a European insurance ban.
The company once linked to the military, whose name
"Zhenrong" literally means "boosting the military" in Mandarin,
brought the first Iranian cargo to China in 1995, more than a
decade before top refiner Sinopec laid hands on Iranian crude.
Zhenrong is also looking into importing Iranian condensate
from the giant South Pars gas project from 2013, trading sources
said. Condensate is a super light crude oil ideal for making
"Zhenrong is exploring the business...but not jumping on a
term deal yet as the company, being only a trader, not a
refiner, still sees it as risky," said a second senior trading
source with direct knowledge of Zhuhai Zhenrong's business.
(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)