Seoul, Ankara seeking U.S. waiver on Iran oil

January 4, 2012 - 18:14
SEOUL, ANKARA – South Korea and Turkey will seek a waiver from toughened U.S. sanctions that could disrupt Iranian oil shipments.

Turkey will seek a waiver from the United States to exempt Turkish oil importer Tupras from new U.S. sanctions on institutions that deal with Iran's central bank, a Turkish energy official told Reuters on Wednesday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a Turkish energy official will meet with a representative of the U.S. embassy in Turkey to learn more about the content of the new U.S. law.

Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz also said on Wednesday Turkish oil importer Tupras continues to buy oil from Iran despite tough new U.S. sanctions on institutions that deal with Iran's central bank.

"Iran is one of the countries Tupras imports oil from. We have not received information on the new sanctions. Tupras continues to buy oil today," Yildiz told reporters. "This trade will continue until there is a new development."

U.S. ally Turkey is among the biggest buyers of Iranian oil and gas. It gets about 30 percent of its oil from neighbor Iran, and Tupras, Turkey's biggest crude oil importer is a big buyer of Iranian crude.

-------- Korean refiners to buy 10,000 bpd more from Iran in 2012

South Korea will buy around 10 percent of its crude from Iran in 2012, up slightly from last year, Reuters reported.

Refiners in the world's fifth-largest oil importer have struck annual deals to buy 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian crude, a little more than the 190,000 bpd in 2011, but are also keeping an eye out for potential replacements.

South Korea will meet with U.S. officials this quarter to lobby for an exemption to U.S. sanctions to enable it to continue buying and paying for Iran's oil, government sources said.

Iran, already struggling to repatriate oil payments under previous sanctions targeting financial transactions, has an estimated $5 billion of oil money stuck in accounts in South Korea.

SK Energy will buy the additional crude, taking 130,000 bpd in 2012, up 10,000 bpd on the year, a government source said.

An SK Energy spokesman declined to comment when asked about the deal.

Hyundai Oilbank, the only other South Korean refiner that buys Iranian crude, will import 70,000 bpd in 2012, unchanged from 2011, a Hyundai spokesman said on Wednesday. Neither traders nor spokespeople could give more information on the terms of the deals.

Hyundai is making contingency plans for any disruption in the flow, the spokesman said.

"We are planning for various scenarios, including diversifying supply lines, if the situation changes," the spokesman said.

If Iran's oil flow is disrupted, South Korea's government could consider a release of oil from strategic stockpiles kept to provide a buffer for refiners during emergencies, government sources said.  

Top Iranian crude buyer China has yet to agree 2012 oil deals and has cut its imports from Iran by more than half for January as the two haggle over terms.