Tokyo — Japanese refiner Cosmo Oil said Tuesday it does not plan to load any crude oil from Iran in October, while it is still monitoring the progress of bilateral talks between Japan and the US to make a final decision on its Iran oil import policy.
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"We do not have any plans to load any of Iranian crude in October," an official with Cosmo Energy Holdings, the parent of Cosmo Oil, told S&P Global Platts.
But the Cosmo official added that the company has yet to make a final decision on its Iranian crude oil policy as the Japanese government is still in the midst of talks with the US government to secure an exemption from looming sanctions.
Cosmo was responding to remarks made by Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko earlier Tuesday about the government's basic principle to let Japanese refiners make their own decisions over imports.
"Each company is making its own judgment and response for Iranian crude oil procurements," Seko said at a news conference, declining to elaborate on the companies' response.
Following Seko's comments, a spokesman for JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy, Japan's largest refiner, on Tuesday declined to comment on its loadings and imports of Iranian oil after October.
While Japanese refiners have said that they have been waiting for the government's Iranian oil import policy, Seko said Tuesday that the government does not intend to issue any guidance to refiners about their Iranian oil imports.
JAPAN-US TALKS UNDER WAY
"In any case, the government intends to have talks with the US tenaciously in order to continue Iranian crude oil imports," Seko added.
Japan and the US held a second round of talks on the US' Iran sanctions in Washington over August 1-2, when the two sides agreed to continue bilateral discussions.
An Idemitsu Kosan spokesman said Tuesday that that the refiner has yet to decide on its Iranian oil policy as it is still carefully monitoring the progress of the bilateral talks between Japan and the US.
Seko's comments came as Japanese refiners urge the government to seek a US waiver on Iran sanctions as they are keen to continue importing their usual volumes instead of reducing inflows.
Local refiners are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain their Iranian oil imports without US exemptions, as the companies will need to halt imports and clear transactions before the sanctions snap back on November 5.
INCREASED IRAN CRUDE DELIVERIES AHEAD OF US SANCTIONS
Japan's Iranian oil imports increased year on year for the third consecutive month in July as refiners rush to take cargoes before US sanctions come into effect against the Middle East supplier in November.
The 9.6% rise lifted Japan's import volumes of Iranian cargoes to 183,560 b/d in July despite the country's overall crude imports dropping 12.8% year on year to 2.92 million b/d in the month, preliminary data from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry released Friday showed.
Iranian imports in July were up 24% from 148,312 b/d in June, according to METI data. Iran was the fifth-largest crude supplier to Japan in July, accounting for 6.3% of imports.
The surge in Iran exports during May, June and July cut Japan's year-to-date decrease in Iranian oil imports to just 1% from a year earlier, compared with a cumulative 13% drop over January-April.
Over January-July, Japan imported an average of 165,343 b/d of Iranian oil, compared with 153,074 b/d imported over January-April.
US President Donald Trump said on May 8 the US would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and re-impose sanctions that have been frozen since January 2016 as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
--Takeo Kumagai, email@example.com
--Edited by James Leech, firstname.lastname@example.org