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Japan's JXTG set for first loading of Iranian crude oil after US sanctions waiver

Tokyo — Japan's largest refiner JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy is set to resume loading of Iranian crude oil as early as Monday, almost three months after the US sanctions waiver was granted.

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S&P Global Platts trade flow software cFlow showed that the VLCC Eneos Breeze is scheduled to arrive at Iran's Kharg Island Monday.

A JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy spokesman confirmed Monday that it is resuming its Iranian crude oil loading in February. But the spokesman declined to comment on the specific scheduled loading by the Eneos Breeze.

JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy is the fourth Japanese refiner to resume Iranian oil loading, after Showa Shell, Fuji Oil and Cosmo Oil resumed crude oil loading from Iran in January -- the first in four months -- totaling around 4.9 million barrels.

With other refiners planning to resume imports in February, Japan is expected to load about 14 million barrels over January-February, according to Platts calculations based on market information.

That would put Japan's average Iranian oil imports at 78,000 b/d during the 180-day waiver, down 49% from 153,000 b/d imported over May-October 2018, according to Platts calculations.

Japan may have to halt loadings again in March as lifters need to complete voyages before government-backed shipping insurance expires at the end of March for expected renewal on April 1, according to Japanese industry sources.

Japan is among eight countries with the US' 180-day waivers allowing them to keep importing Iranian oil through May 4. Confusion surrounding shipping, insurance and banking rules under the US sanctions kept some of the countries from resuming imports for months after the US granted waivers on November 5.

All transactions under the US State Department's current "significant reduction exemptions" must be completed by May 4.

Fresh waivers would start May 5 for countries that the US determines have met their promises to significantly reduce Iranian imports in the previous six months.

-- Takeo Kumagai, takeo.kumagai@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Irene Tang, newsdesk@spglobal.com