NEW DELHI India's Iran oil imports topped 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) in March, highest in at least five years, as private refiner Reliance Industries (RELI.NS) resumed purchases after a multi-year lay-off, preliminary tanker data obtained by Reuters shows.
Indian refiners together imported 506,100 bpd oil from Iran last month, a jump of about 135 percent from February, the data showed. In March of last year, the refiners halted imports from Iran to keep shipments within the parameters of the temporary nuclear deal then in force.
The higher imports by India signals Tehran's success in beginning to regain market share after the lifting of Western sanctions targeting its nuclear programme. [nL3N173290]
Iran has said it will continue increasing its oil production and exports until it reaches the market position it held before the imposition of sanctions. [nL5N1770E8]
In the fiscal year ended on March 31, Indian refiners shipped in 14.4 percent more oil from Iran at about 251,100 bpd, the data showed. The increase was the largest annual growth since the 2007/08 fiscal year, according to Reuters data.
Essar Oil was the biggest importer of Iranian oil in March with about 207,400 bpd oil, followed by about 130,000 bpd by Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (MRPL.NS) and about 90,600 bpd by Reliance, its first shipments in about six years.
Reliance had halted Iranian oil imports in 2010 because it was worried that the threat of U.S. sanctions on companies doing business with the Islamic republic would complicate its efforts to boost market share for its fuels in the United States.
Last month Reliance imported Forozan grade and South Pars condensate from Iran, the data showed. [nL3N15W4Q2]
Indian Oil Corp (IOC.NS), the country's biggest refiner and not a regular buyer of Iranian oil, shipped in 2 million barrels or about 67,000 bpd from Tehran last month.
(The tanker loading data was converted from tonnes to barrels using a conversion factor of 7.3 barrels per tonne.)
(Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Tom Hogue)
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