Japan Idemitsu to buy no more than 1 Iran crude cargo this year

TOKYO, May 2 (Reuters) – Japanese refiner Idemitsu Kosan Co said it will buy either no crude or a maximum of one cargo from Iran in the year through March 2015, a move that could keep at bay any potential U.S. pressure over oil shipments from the Islamic republic.

Idemitsu, Japan’s third-largest refiner, bought one cargo in the year through March this year, Taiji Hashidoko, manager of Investor Relations Office, said on Friday at an earnings briefing. He declined to reveal the volumes.

One Middle East cargo is usually around 600,000 barrels, and Idemitsu has cut its Iranian crude volume for the year ended in March to around 2,000 barrels per day (bpd) from less than 10,000 bpd a year earlier, an industry source familiar with the matter said.

“(Iran crude) accounts for less than 1 percent of our firm’s purchase of crude,” Hashidoko told reporters on the sidelines of its earnings announcement for the just ended business year.

“It is not that we are currently considering active dealings with Iran.”

Idemitsu, which sold 516,000 bpd of oil products globally in the year ended March 31, did not reveal how much crude it bought during the business year.

Hashidoko added that he has not yet received information that the company has extended an annual Iranian crude contract for this fiscal year, and added it would engage flexibly in dealing with Iran based on the policy of the Japanese government.

As part of a November agreement between Iran and six world powers, buyers of Iranian oil, most of whom are in Asia, are no longer required to continuously reduce purchases from the OPEC member for the six months to July 20 to qualify for a waiver from U.S. sanctions every six months.

Japan has cut Iranian crude imports for the sixth straight year last year to 177,414 bpd under pressure from the United States and other Western powers to do so to push Tehran to curtail its disputed nuclear programme.

Japan’s biggest refiner JX Nippon Oil & Energy has cut its annual crude contract with Iran by 27 percent to 53,000 bpd this year, an industry source said in March.

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