* BPCL unable to open account pay for new Iran term contract
* Others buyers haven't heard of Turkey stopping Iran
* India exploring option of paying for Iranian oil via
(Adds details on other refiners, comments)
By Nidhi Verma
NEW DELHI, Dec 15 India's BPCL
is unable to pay for crude it is buying from Iran, three oil
industry sources told Reuters on Thursday, in yet another sign
Asian buyers are struggling to do business with the Islamic
India is Iran's second-largest crude buyer, taking about
341,000 barrels per day (bpd), or about 13 percent of Iran's 2.6
million bpd of exports in trade worth about $12 billion a year.
At around 20,000 barrels a day, Bharat Petroleum Corp (BPCL)
buys only a fraction of that crude, having started a new
long-term contract to buy the oil in September.
To pay for the crude, BPCL applied for an account with
Turkey's state-controlled Halkbank, which would allow
it to use the same payment channel as other Indian refiners, but
the bank turned BPCL down, the sources said.
BPCL declined to comment on Thursday.
Indian state-run refiners began using Halkbank to pay in
July after India's central bank scrapped the payment clearing
method they had used until then.
"We are continuing our oil purchases from Iran and we are
looking at appropriate mechanisms for dealing with the payment
with all possible avenues," India's foreign secretary, Rajan
Mathai, told reporters.
Refiners have expressed concern the Halkbank payment route
may be undone by new financial sanctions the U.S. and the
European Union are threatening to slap on Iran over Tehran's
Mathai declined to comment if the Turkey arrangement may be
coming to an end.
"I think that is a matter of speculation, I would not like
to comment on it," he said. "As of now, this is a mechanism
which is working."
Other Indian refiners MRPL, Essar Oil,
HPCL and IOC have to date heard nothing to
suggest their payments to Iran via Halkbank have been stopped,
sources at the refiners said. Their cash is transferred from
accounts with India's Union Bank to Halkbank.
"Union Bank has no problems with BPCL, but Halkbank has
refused to open a bank account for BPCL," one of the sources
India is exploring the option of paying for Iranian oil
imports through Russian banks, a senior government source said
on Thursday, adding that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could
raise the issue when he meets Russian leaders this week.
"This is being considered in light of sanctions being
considered (against Iranian oil trade) by some countries," said
the source, who asked not to be named.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation on
Wednesday to expand sanctions on Iran, cracking down on a wider
range of energy issues and closing some loopholes in existing
energy and financial sanctions.
The United States, Britain and Canada announced new measures
against Iran's energy and financial sectors last month and
France proposed "unprecedented" new sanctions.
BPCL's annual deal is to receive 1 million tonnes of crude
per year from Iran. It took delivery of a 140,000-tonne cargo in
September and October and another of 130,000 tonnes in November.
(Reporting by Nidhi Verma, additional reporting by Krittivas
Mukherjee,; Editing by Manash Goswami and Simon Webb)