Jan 8, 2014, 2:23 PM
News Code: 80985884
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Leading Japanese crude refiner renews contract with Iran

Tehran, Jan 8, IRNA – Chairman of Japan's JX Nippon Oil & Energy, the country's largest crude refiner, said on Wednesday that the company has renewed its annual contract with Iran starting Jan 2014, Chairman Yasushi Kimura told reporters Tuesday.

He underlined that the confirmation of renewing Iran's annual crude import contract marked the first among Japanese buyers of Iranian oil for 2014 import contracts.

Refiners Showa Shell, Cosmo Oil and Idemitsu Kosan also have annual crude import contracts with Iran, expiring at the end of March.

"We have concluded our annual contract starting from January," Kimura said on the sidelines of a reception in Tokyo hosted by the Petroleum Association of Japan, of which he is president.

Until December 2012, the company had an annual contract to import 80,000 b/d of Iranian crude. Like Iran's other customers in Japan, JX continues to buy Iranian crude under exemption from US sanctions that would otherwise bar Japanese banks from the US financial system.

A preliminary six-month deal between Iran and six world powers on the nuclear issue, struck in November but yet to be implemented, gives Tehran some sanctions relief but maintains the core restrictions on Iranian oil.

Nevertheless, the agreement has raised hopes that a comprehensive agreement will be reached, leading to the complete lifting of sanctions.

"I think Japan is in a very interesting position," Kimura said, adding " … Japan and Iran are maintaining their relationship as in the past."

"By maintaining a good relationship [with Iran], I am hoping to see a new framework when situations develop into the next stage," Kimura said.

In the meantime, according to industrial sources, Iran's customers in Japan and South Korea are seeking to maintain their current import levels going into 2014.