S.Africa keeps Iran crude imports at zero in Sept

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South Africa suspended all imports of crude oil from Iran for a fourth month in September, data showed, as Pretoria continued to steer away from Iranian shipments because of European insurance sanctions.

In May, imports from Iran stood at 285,524 tonnes, but since June Africa’s biggest economy has replaced shipments from Iran with crude from other suppliers, especially Saudi Arabia.

South Africa used to import a quarter of its crude from Iran but has come under Western pressure to cut the shipments as part of sanctions designed to halt Tehran’s suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons, Reuters reports.

The major supplier in September was Saudi Arabia, with shipments from the Middle East country at 759,643 tonnes. Other crude imports originated in Angola, Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates, with shipments totalling 1.76 million tonnes.

Even though the United States granted South Africa an exemption from financial sanctions after cuts in Iranian imports, Pretoria is still facing problems because of European Union sanctions preventing insurance companies from underwriting Iranian shipments.

The EU has not granted any waivers, even though South Africa has been lobbying Brussels because of the impact on its fuel supplies.

Some South African refineries are designed to treat Iranian-type crude only, and refiners and the government have said the country will be hard-pressed to replace those supplies with other products indefinitely.

Any disruption to crude imports could hit fuel supplies in South Africa, which has suffered shortages in the last year because of strikes and refinery problems.

Refiners in South Africa include Shell, BP, Total, Chevron, petrochemicals group Sasol, and Engen, which is majority-owned by Malaysian state oil group Petronas .