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Iranian aim to end gasoline imports a blow for Asian refineries


Iran hopes to end gasoline imports this year

Indian and Asian refiners largest suppliers

Plans hinge on Gulf Star Refinery ramp up

Iran is on track to end gasoline imports by the end of the year in a potential blow to refiners in India and East Asia.

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The country's oil minister Bijan Zanganeh said this week higher domestic production from its newest refinery would remove the need for imports by the fourth quarter of this year.

The current Iranian year started March 21.

The ramp up of domestic production could hit refiners in India, North Asia and Southeast Asia, which currently supply the bulk of the Islamic republic's imports. Iran, which is the most populous nation in the Gulf region, is a potentially large market for refined products.

"In the last [Iranian] year, 15 million liters per day (l/d) of gasoline were added to the country's total production," Zanganeh said in a report by the oil ministry's news service Shana. "In the next four months, a daily 12 million liters will be added too."

Despite being the third-largest producer of crude in OPEC, Iran has been dependent on refined product imports due to a lack of refining capacity and the impact of international sanctions.

Tighter restrictions could be re-imposed if US President Donald Trumps decides to back out of an international nuclear deal with Tehran.

Iran had aimed to end gasoline imports almost a decade ago but was thwarted by a lack of refining capacity.

Its latest ambition to become self-sufficient in the motor fuel hinges on the Persian Gulf Star refinery. When all three phases of the facility are complete it is expected to produce 55% of Iran's gasoline in addition to 13.5 million l/d of diesel.

Start up at the plant was delayed by financial problems, but the first phase began operating in May 2017. In January, National Iranian Oil Products Refining and Distribution Company put average gasoline imports in 2017 at 13 million l/d.

"By the end of the current [Iranian] year, another 12 million l/d of gasoline will be added to the production and we will not import gasoline starting the second half of the current [Iranian year]," said Zanganeh.

Zanganeh also blamed an increase in automobiles for ongoing imports gasoline.

"Don't blame refineries for gasoline issue. The problem is auto manufacturing," he said. "Every year, automotive industry adds 10% to its car production. This causes gasoline consumption growth."

--Aresu Eqbali,
--Eklavya Gupte,
--Edited by Jeremy Lovell,