TOKYO, July 31 Japanese refiner Showa Shell
Sekiyu KK has been importing less Iranian crude oil
than last year's average of 100,000 barrels per day (bpd), in
line with U.S. sanctions against the Islamic nation, a company
official said on Tuesday.
Showa Shell, formerly the country's top buyer of Iranian
crude, was acknowledging for the first time that it is
continuing to import Iranian crude. Sources have said the
company's previous annual deal expired in March.
"The current levels are lower than what we originally had
... of 100,000 bpd," Tsutomu Yoshioka, general manager of Showa
Shell's finance and control division, told a news conference on
the company's half-year earnings.
"It is for certain the levels are lower than a year
earlier," he added but declined to comment further because he
was not directly in charge of crude imports.
Showa Shell, which is 35 percent owned by Royal Dutch Shell
and 15 percent owned by Saudi Aramco, is likely to have
cut its contracted volumes to around 60,000 to 70,000 bpd, an
industry source told Reuters this month, but the company had
declined to comment at the time.
Tuesday's official data showed Japan imported 207,812 bpd
from Iran in June, up 6.8 percent from a year earlier as
refiners moved forward loading schedules before a halt in
inflows this month due to EU sanctions.
Asked if Showa Shell would keep cutting importing volumes
from Iran, Yoshioka said this would not be an issue for the
company alone to decide, but gave no further details.
Japan's fifth largest refiner, Showa Shell vowed on March
21, a day after the United States exempted Japan from financial
sanctions, to respect the agreement between the two countries
and cut imports from Iran in line with it.
Japan's top refiner, JX Nippon Oil & Energy, which
has a contracted volume with Iran of 83,000 bpd, has emerged as
the country's biggest buyer of Iranian crude, taking the top
spot from Showa Shell, sources have said.