South Africa’s four crude oil refineries are holding off any resumption of imports from Iran, where sanctions are yet to unravel fully following a nuclear deal between Tehran and the West, operators said on Wednesday.
Before the sanctions, Iran was the biggest oil supplier to South Africa, the continent’s second-biggest crude consumer, importing around 380,000 barrels per day (bpd) in total. Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said this month Pretoria was keen on resuming trade.
At least half of the crude refineries operating in South Africa are units of global oil majors.
“BP complies with sanctions and therefore nothing would change unless sanctions are removed. At the moment the southern African unit is definitely not looking to import Iranian crude,” BP regional spokeswoman Karen Byamugisha said.
Her sentiments were echoed by Shell, which together with BP operates the region’s largest refinery, SAPREF, in the east coast city of Durban. The plant has a design capacity of 180,000-190,000 bpd.
“Shell has complied and continues to comply with all relevant international sanctions. At the same time, strictly within the boundaries of the law, we are interested in exploring the role Shell can play in developing Iran’s energy potential,” it said in a statement.
South Africa bought around 68,000 bpd from Iran in May 2012, a month before it halted crude purchases as Western countries pressured Tehran over its nuclear programme. That was well down from peak purchases in 2011.
Chevron, which operates a refinery in Cape Town, declined to discuss its plans.
Engen, majority-owned by Malaysian national petroleum firm Petronas, did not respond to questions. Engen, which runs South Africa’s oldest refinery, was the single largest importer of Iranian crude to South Africa before sanctions hit in 2012.
Sasol, jointly operating the Natref refinery with Total, said they had no immediate plans to resume Iranian oil imports.
“Sasol has not imported Iranian crude since 2012 and with current supply channels in place there are no plans at this stage to import Iranian crude,” spokesman Alex Anderson said.