* Cut in Iran imports aimed at bringing down yearly averages
* April-October imports from Iran averaged 109,000 bpd
By Nidhi Verma
NEW DELHI, Dec 5 (Reuters) - India's Essar Oil has
more than halved oil imports from Iran in November and aims to
reduce purchases further, a source with direct knowledge of the
matter said, strengthening New Delhi's hopes of a continued
waiver from U.S. sanctions.
Privately-owned Essar was Iran's top Indian client in April
to October, temporarily replacing state-run Mangalore Refinery
and Petrochemicals Ltd, according to data available to
Reuters, taking more than its term deal's average quantities.
India received a six-month waiver in June from the United
States from its sanctions, which target Iran's nuclear programme
and would cut off countries failing to reduce Iranian oil
imports from its financial system. Renewal of the waiver
requires further cuts.
The sanctions aim to choke Iran's oil revenue, the lifeline
of its economy, and to force the OPEC member to curb its nuclear
programme, which the West believes is meant for making an atom
bomb. Iran denies this claim.
In November, Essar imported about 265,000 tonnes or about
64,500 barrels per day (bpd) crude from Iran, a decline of about
55 percent from the previous month and about a third of its
imports a year ago, the source said.
In October, the refiner imported 144,800 bpd and about
180,800 bpd in November last year, the source, who requested
anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, added.
"Essar will continue to reduce purchases from Iran as it
wants to bring down imports from Iran to about 85,000 barrels
per day in this fiscal year," said the source.
Essar imported about 109,000 bpd from Iran during
April-October, according to Reuters data, and has been
criticised by state-run refiners for not cooperating with them
in India's effort to reduce shipments from the Islamic nation.
Essar has an annual deal with Iran to import about 100,000
bpd oil in this fiscal year ending March 31, 2013 and the
planned reduction is in line with a verbal directive from the
government to reduce imports by 15 percent.
Essar, which operates a 400,000 bpd refinery at Vadinar in
western Gujarat state, has meanwhile significantly raised
processing of heavy and ultra-heavy grades, including those from
Latin America, to improve refining margins.
The refiner has an annual deal with Colombia's Ecopetrol
to import 12 million barrels of Castilla crude
Essar aims to buy 15-20 percent of its oil needs from the
domestic market, 35-40 percent from Latin American sources, and
30-40 percent from the Middle East, it said in May.