Middle East, US crude oil curbs Indian appetite for African supplies

Above, a refinery of Essar Oil, which runs India’s second biggest private sector refinery, in Vadinar in the western state of Gujarat. India’s oil imports in October totaled 4.1 million barrels per day. (Reuters)
Updated 17 November 2017
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Middle East, US crude oil curbs Indian appetite for African supplies

NEW DELHI: India’s imports of African crude oil in October plunged to their lowest in over four years, with the world’s No.3 oil consumer increasingly turning to cheaper supplies from the United States and heavier Middle Eastern grades, ship tracking data showed.
US crude production has soared more than 14 percent since mid-2016 to 9.65 million barrels per day (bpd), altering trade routes as its relatively cheap and light grades become a viable import option for Asian refiners.
“Earlier in Asia, West African oil was competing with Middle East grades, but now it has a new competitor: the US,” said Ehsan Ul-Haq, director of crude oil and refined products at consultancy Resource Economist.
Surging US crude output has made West Texas Intermediate (WTI)-linked American oil relatively cheap compared with the international benchmark, Brent, which has been propped up by supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
WTI has since October been trading at an average discount of $6 per barrel to Brent.
“In the last few months, US oil gave tough competition to the African grades and the price difference (between WTI and Brent) was good enough to cover the freight,” said R Ramachandran, head of refineries at Bharat Petroleum Corp. .
US crude oil exports to India were unheard of until 2015, when Washington eased tight export restrictions in parallel with its growing output.
Rising steadily this year, US oil in October accounted for about 3 percent of India’s overall imports, while the share of African crude fell to about 10.5 percent, the lowest since November, 2012, the ship tracking data in Thomson Reuters Eikon showed.
India’s oil imports in October totalled 4.1 million bpd, a decline of 15 percent over September, when they hit a monthly record. The imports were also 4.6 percent lower than a year ago. Of that, around 430,000 bpd came from Africa, the lowest level since March, 2013.
Supply disruptions in Nigeria also dented its exports, forcing Indian refiners to seek supplies elsewhere.
Last month, the share of the Middle East crude in India’s overall imports rose to its highest in about a year, making up almost 70 percent of all supplies, the data showed, shipping over around 2.8 million bpd.
Ramchandran said India’s new and expanded refineries were geared toward processing heavy oil from the Middle East.
“Instead of low sulfur, refiners are looking at medium sulfur oil, so cargoes are shifting from West Africa to the Middle East,” Ramachandran said.
India’s biggest oil supplier is Iraq, followed by Saudi Arabia. Iran replaced Nigeria as the third-biggest supplier.


UK’s Quercus pulls plug on $570 mln Iran solar plant as sanctions bite

Updated 14 August 2018
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UK’s Quercus pulls plug on $570 mln Iran solar plant as sanctions bite

  • Quercus said it will halt the construction of a 500 million euro ($570 million) solar power plant in Iran
  • Iran has been trying to increase the share of renewable-produced electricity in its energy mix

OSLO: A British renewable energy investor Quercus said it will halt the construction of a 500 million euro ($570 million) solar power plant in Iran due to recently imposed US sanctions on Tehran.
The solar plant in Iran would have been the first renewable energy investment outside Europe by Quercus and the world’s sixth largest, with a 600 megawatt (MW) capacity.
Iran has been trying to increase the share of renewable-produced electricity in its energy mix, partly due to air pollution and to meet international commitments, hoping to have about 5 gigawatt in renewables installed by 2022.
In June, before the US-imposed sanctions, more than 250 companies had signed agreements to add and sell power from about 4 gigawatt of new renewables in the country, which has only 602 MW installed, Iranian energy ministry data showed.
Washington reimposed sanctions last week after pulling out of a 2015 international deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program in return for an easing of economic sanctions.
US president Donald Trump has also threatened to penalize companies that continue to operate in Iran, which led banks and many companies around the world to scale back their dealings with Tehran.
“Following the US sanctions on Iran, we have decided to cease all activities in the country, including our 600 MW project. We will continue to monitor the situation closely,” Quercus chief executive Diego Biasi said in an email on Tuesday.
The firm will continue to monitor the situation closely, said Biasi, who declined to comment further.
Last year Quercus said it would set up a project company and sell shares via a private placement after attracting interest from private and institutional investors, including sovereign wealth funds.
Construction was expected to take three years, with each 100 MW standalone lot becoming operational and connecting to the grid every six months.

SANCTIONS BITE
Independently-owned Quercus has a portfolio of around 28 renewable energy plants and 235 MW of installed capacity.
The firm, founded by Biasi and Simone Borla in 2010, controls five investment funds and has a network of “highly regarded external partners,” it says on its website.
The 600 MW plant it aimed to construct in Iran would be the firm’s largest investment. Quercus declined to comment on the details of its decision to cease the plan and on any financial losses that could result from it.
Fearing the consequences of the US embargo, a string of European companies have recently announced they would scale back their business in Iran.
On Tuesday, German engineering group Bilfinger, said it did not plan to sign any new business in the country, while automotive supplier Duerr on Aug. 11 said it had halted activities in Iran.
Another project, planned by Norway’s Saga Energy, which said last October it aimed to build 2 GW of new solar energy capacity in Iran and to start construction by the end of 2018, has also stalled.
Saga Energy’s chief of operations Rune Haaland told Reuters it was still working on getting the funding, which is more complicated since recent developments, and although it aimed to push on with its plans, construction could be delayed. ($1 = 0.8773 euros)