* India’s March Iran oil imports -34.4 pct m/m; -18.2 pct y/y
* India’s FY18 oil imports rose 4 pct y/y to 4.46 mln bpd
* Iraq replaced Saudi as top oil supplier to India in FY 18
By Nidhi Verma
NEW DELHI, April 20 (Reuters) - India’s oil imports from Iran during the 2017/18 fiscal year fell by 15.7 percent from a year ago as state refiners reduced purchases after a row over development rights for an Iranian natural gas field, according to data from shipping and industry sources.
India, the world’s third-biggest oil importer, shipped in a record 4.46 million barrels per day (bpd) oil in the fiscal year that ended in March to feed its expanded refining capacity.
During the period, Indian refiners received about 458,000 bpd of oil from Iran, compared to about 543,500 bpd during the prior year period, the data showed.
Indian state refiners, including Indian Oil Corp, Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd, Hindustan Petroleum Corp and Bharat Petroleum Corp, along with it subsidiary Bharat Oman Refineries Ltd, lifted about 27 percent less oil from Iran, the data showed.
Last year India, Iran’s top oil client after China, had instructed state refiners to cut Iranian oil imports after Tehran decided to give development rights of Farzad B gas field to other companies .
However, the countries have now resumed negotiations on the Farzad field. Iran hopes major differences between the two nations on the field will be resolved in two months, Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh said earlier this month.
In the current fiscal year, state refiners have drawn up plans to double Iranian oil imports to take advantage of freight discounts.
Iran hopes to sell 500,000 bpd of oil to India during the fiscal year 2018/19, Zangeneh said in February. An Indian source, however, said, the imports from Iran could rise to 600,000 bpd.
In the last fiscal year, private refiner Reliance Industries boosted imports from Iran by about 50 percent to about 81,000 bpd, the data showed.
Essar Oil’s imports from Iran fell by 18 percent to 145,000 bpd in the last fiscal year, as the company, under new management led by Russian oil major Rosneft, has diversified its purchases.
HPCL-Mittal Energy Ltd, which operates the Bathinda refinery in northern Punjab state, marginally reduced its Iran oil purchases to about 16,000 bpd in 2017/18, the data showed.
In March, India’s oil imports from Iran were 430,000 bpd, down 34.4 percent from the previous month and 18.2 percent from a year ago, the data from the sources showed.
The sources declined to be identified as they were not authorised to speak with media.
In the last fiscal year, Iraq emerged as the top oil supplier to India replacing Saudi Arabia. Iran was the third-largest, while Nigeria replaced Venezuela as the fourth-biggest supplier.
Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Christian Schmollinger