* Turkey to continue to buy Iranian crude in 2012
* Traders do not see Tupras buying extra from Iran
LONDON, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Turkey’s biggest crude oil importer Tupras has renewed its annual deal to buy crude oil from Iran for 2012, at almost the same volumes as this year, industry sources familiar with the matter said.
They said Tupras had no plans for now to purchase extra amounts from the Islamic Republic.
“They have an annual contract with Iran for many years through which they buy crude. They renew that every year and it has been renewed for 2012,” one industry source said.
Turkey’s purchases of Iranian crude have become more crucial for the Islamic Republic, whose much-needed revenues of crude sales are under the threat of an outright ban from the European Union, one of its major customers as the pressure on Tehran over its nuclear programme intensifies.
So far, crude oil sales have been excluded from the European Union and United Nations sanctions. But with a U.S. presidential election less than a year away, anti-Iran rhetoric has increased in Washington, and drawn support from its trading partners such as Europe and China, the top buyer of Iranian crude.
China’s top refiner Sinopec Corp said it will in January buy less than half the crude it imports from Iran.
There was talk among crude oil traders that Turkey might be the natural receiver of any additional oil Iran would be forced to sell in the event of a drop in its other buyers. But industry sources said Tupras had no such plans, at least for now.
“I don’t think there is such an intention right now,” one trading source said. “Tupras has become much more commercial since its privatisation. If Iranian crude makes economical sense, they might take on more, if not they wouldn’t, as simple as that,” he added.
Greece has also been increasingly relying on Iran for most of its crude oil imports as fears that Athens might default on its debt has deterred its regular suppliers like Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.
Currently, Turkey and Greece are among the most reliant on Iranian crude, which makes up more than 30 percent of both countries’ total oil imports, according to data from the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Tupras purchased 7.41 million tonnes of crude oil from Iran in 2010, according to a presentation on its website, which makes up for almost 38 percent of the 19.6 million tonnes of crude it refined in 2010.
Analysts say this year the refiner is set to process nearly 21 million tonnes of crude while the percentage of Iranian crude is likely to rise to above 40 percent due to price advantage.
Another industry source said the amount that Tupras agreed to buy for 2012 was “more or less the same” with that of this year’s, which falls in line with the analysts’ expectations.
Tupras is Turkey’s sole refiner with a total capacity of 28.1 million tonnes in four refineries. Since its privatisation bid in 2005, it is owned by Turkey’s largest conglomerate Koc Holding. (Editing by James Jukwey)