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RPT EXCLUSIVE-India's Iran oil purchases will disappear before US sanctions

(Repeats history published on Friday without changes to the text)

* IOC to buy 6 mln bbls in Sept, 7 mln bbl in October

* MRPL buys 3 million BBLs in Sept. Oct.

* Nayara buys in Sept. Oct. each 1 million

* India's April-October Iran imports 73 percent of firm contracts

By Nidhi Verma

NEW DELHI, Sept. 14 (Reuters) – Indian refineries will cut Iran's monthly crude oil imports for September and October by almost half from the beginning of this year as New Delhi works to abandon sanctions on oil reserves.

India's cargoes from Iran for this and next month will drop to less than 12 million barrels apiece after purchases have been increased from April to August pending cuts.

The US renews sanctions on Iran after withdrawing from a nuclear deal negotiated between Tehran and the world powers in 2015. Washington has reinstated some of the financial sanctions on 6 August, while those affecting the Iranian oil sector will come into force on 4 November.

India, Iran's second-largest oil buyer behind China's top buyer, does not recognize the reinstatement of US sanctions, but relinquishing the restrictions is a must for New Delhi to protect its wider exposure to the US financial system.

India's oil ministry told refineries in June that they should prepare for "drastic reduction or zero" imports from Iran as of November.

"Some refineries have either already exhausted or pre-matured their contract, which gives them the flexibility to go to zero if necessary or to clarify the waivers," said Energy Aspect senior oil analyst Amrita Sen. said Reuters.

Washington will consider abandoning Iranian oil buyers such as India, but they must eventually stop crude oil imports from Tehran, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in New Delhi last week following a meeting of senior officials.

The Indian government, which is already facing a declining rupee and high fuel prices, does not want to stop oil imports from Iran, as the Islamic Republic offers a rebate on oil sales to India.

Government sources said India had made that point in last week's US officials and continued to work with Washington to seek relief from its oil purchases from Iran.

"We have a special relationship with both the US and Iran, and we see how we can balance it all and also balance the interests of refineries and end users," said one of the government officials.

But if Washington takes a hard line, India would have no choice but to stop Iranian imports, they said.

CREATE IMPORTS IN THE HALF

India brought about 658,000 barrels per day (bpd) from Iran in April-August, according to Reuters, and the cuts forecast for September and October would cut the daily average by about 45 percent in those two months to 360,000. 370,000 bpd.

Indian oil refineries have already announced October loading plans for the National Iranian Oil Co. (NIOC), according to sources familiar with the loading plan.

Top refiner Indian Oil Corp intends to raise 6 million barrels each in September and October, while Mangalore refinery and petrochemicals would each load 3 million barrels during those two months.

The IOC will also raise one million barrels for its subsidiary Chennai Petroleum Corp in October.

Bharat Petroleum Corp would lift 1 million barrels in September and suspend purchases in October, a company said Tuesday.

Bharat Petroleum already has more than its fixed tonnage – the amount to which it is committed – to be sourced for 2018/19, its chairman said Tuesday.

Nayara Energy, which is owned by Russian oil giant Rosneft, plans to produce one million barrels in September and October, it said. But the refinery operator started reducing its oil imports from Iran in June and intends to stop buying completely from November.

Hindustan Petroleum, Reliance Industries and HPCL Mittal Energy (HMEL) are not planning on buying from Iran in September and October.

India refineries – with the exception of Reliance and HMEL, which have no fixed-term contracts with Iran – will collect together around 73 percent of their fixed contract volumes from Iran by the end of October, according to the load data.

IOC, Nayara and MRPL did not respond to Reuters emails looking for comments.

Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Tom Hogue

Our standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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