NEW DELHI As Iran fully returns to oil markets after the lifting of sanctions, Tehran is working to re-establish its national oil company as the sole marketer of Iranian crude and steering customers clear of middlemen.
In a letter to refiners in India, a National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) executive said the right to sell Iranian oil in that country had not been granted to "any other parties". Separately, an NIOC source said the policy of direct marketing by the state company was being applied worldwide.
Iran emerged from years of economic isolation last weekend when world powers led by the United States and European Union lifted crippling sanctions against the Islamic republic in return for Tehran complying with a deal to curb its nuclear ambitions.
The sanctions had cut Iranian crude exports from a peak near 3 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2011 to just over 1 million bpd in recent years.
Some of Iran's crude was suspected of being marketed through middlemen during the sanctions period, although it has never been clear how many such intermediaries were operating or the volumes involved. With sanctions lifted, Tehran is keen to get back full control of its crude exports.
In a letter seen by Reuters, Seyed Mohsen Ghamsari, the director for international affairs at NIOC, told customers in India - the second-biggest buyer of its oil after China - that they should stay clear of middlemen.
"It has recently come to our knowledge that Iranian crude oil has been offered to some Indian customers through some parties rather than National Iranian Oil Company," Ghamsari said in the letter dated Jan. 13.
"In this respect, we hereby would like to inform you that ... National Iranian Oil Company has the sole right to market and sell Iranian crude oil and this right is not granted to any other parties for (the) Indian market."
Indian refining sources said they had begun discussions in the middle of last year with Russian company Promsi, which was then offering attractive terms for the sale of Iranian crude oil, according to another document seen by Reuters.
With sanctions still in place at the time, the NIOC source said the state company had agreed to sell some of its oil through Russian companies, although adding that in the end no oil was supplied.
"Now NIOC will directly market its oil across the world," said the source.
Promsi, registered as a construction material wholesaler in the southwest Russian city of Togliatty, was founded in 2010, according to Reuters company data. It is listed by the Russian energy ministry as a federal state enterprise.
An official with Promsi declined to comment.
Indian refiners, including Reliance Industries, have recently shown interest in raising imports from Iran after sanctions were scrapped, Ghamsari told Reuters earlier this month.
India, as Iran's biggest oil client after China, is one of NIOC's key targets for increased sales now that the barriers to the open trade of its crude have been lifted.
(Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Henning Gloystein and Tom Hogue)
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Updated Date: Jan 21, 2016 17:15:20 IST