Iran dreams of gasoline independence

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By Middle East Affairs

Iran has heavily reduced its gasoline imports in recent weeks, trade sources told Reuters, bringing it closer to its goal of fuel self-sufficiency.

The country opened a new refinery, which the news agency says has reduced its dependence on imports. That may help Tehran because as the 2015 nuclear accord that relieved it of sanctions is suddenly looking fragile. U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to pull out of the deal, and while Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia also signed the agreement, Iran says it will fall apart without the United States’ involvement.

According to Reuters, “Iran, despite being OPEC’s third-largest crude oil producer, has for years struggled to meet its domestic fuel needs due to a lack of refining capacity and international sanctions that limited the supply of spare parts for plant maintenance.”

Fuel independence has been a priority for President Hassan Rouhani since such trade restrictions from the sanctions have been lifted.

Iran’s national oil company began the second phase of the Persian Gulf Star Refinery at Bandar Abbas, which Reuters said converts light crude into gasoline.

Officials at the refinery could not be reached by Reuters for comment.

Trading sources told the news agency that the new phase will “double the refinery’s capacity to 240,000 barrels per day (bpd), but production has still to be ramped up fully and it might not yet meet its highest fuel-quality specifications.”

Iran’s gasoline imports should drop to around 70,000 tons in March compared to about 300,000 tons in December and 120,000 tons in January and February, according to shipping data and what trading sources have told Reuters.

They also told the news agency that the decrease in imports has led to a gasoline surplus in the Middle East “with a rare arbitrage for the motor fuel opening from the region to West Africa.”

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