Foreign tankers line up for gas swap with Iran in Caspian Sea

Azerbaijan, Baku, Oct.13/ Trend F. Milad/

Despite the EU attempt to impose a ban on Iranian gas industry, numbers of oil tankers from the Central Asia have berthed at Iran's Neka Port to swap liquefied gas, the Mehr News Agency reported.

So far, 5 tankers have discharged their consignments of liquefied gas at the Neka Port, according Mehr.

The European Union is poised to ban imports of Iranian gas as part of a set of new measures to ratchet up pressure on the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program, according to Reuters.

European governments and the United States are searching for new ways to pressure Tehran into scaling back its nuclear program. Tehran insists its work is only for civilian purposes.

In August, Mehr quoted Deputy Oil Minister Alireza Zeighami as saying that swapping other oil products, such as furnace oil, is currently underway with the Caspian Sea littoral states.

Iran has not stopped oil swaps, he said, adding that liquefied gas swaps have been carried out mainly via rail networks.

An official with the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) on July 7 rejected some news claiming that Iran has stopped swapping crude oil, saying that two ships carry Iranian oil at the Caspian Sea and deliver at the Persian Gulf on the weekly basis.

Mehr quoted the unnamed official as saying that swapping crude oil is underway as it was in the past. "Crude oil is loaded at the Neka Port and is delivered to international customers at the Persian Gulf".

Between 15,000-30,000 barrels of crude oil is swapped per day despite sanctions against the Islamic Republic's oil industry, the official noted.

"Iran has provided the necessary facilities to increase oil swap with Central Asian countries through its northern oil terminal, the managing director of the Iranian Oil Terminals Company (IOTC), Pirouz Mousavi, said in February.

Mousavi said that IOTC is ready to increase oil swap operations between Iran and its oil-producing neighbors in Central Asia.

The official stated that the company gives priority to upgrading its oil swap terminal in Neka, in northern Iran, as the starting point of a major pipeline project which will connect Neka to the port city of Jask in southern Iran.

According to the official statistics released by NIOC, an average of 20,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil produced by Caspian Sea littoral countries is currently being swapped for delivery in the Persian Gulf and the figure is expected to hit 70,000 bpd in the coming months.

Iran stopped oil swap with Caspian Sea littoral states in April 2010 after swapping their oil for 13 years. On July 2, 2011, NIOC Managing Director Ahmad Qalebani announced the resumption of oil swaps with Caspian states, saying that the volume of oil swap was being negotiated.

The oil Iran imports from the Central Asian countries are refined in Tehran and Tabriz and then delivered to the buyers from the Persian Gulf.

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