Iran seeks to become self-sufficient in gasoline in two years’ time and then to start exporting the fuel, an official said on Sunday, as some traders and international oil firms cease sales to the Islamic state.
The world’s fifth-largest crude exporter imports at least 30 percent of its gasoline needs but says the construction of new refineries will boost domestic output and make it less vulnerable to any future sanctions targeting such trade.
“By building new refineries we will become a gasoline exporter,” ISNA news agency quoted Ali Reza Zeighami, managing director of the National Iranian Refining and Oil Products Distribution Company, as saying.
“The plan is to become self-sufficient in two years’ time … by implementing the scheme to increase gasoline production in refineries,” Zeighami said.
Officials also hope a plan to phase out energy subsidies will slow gasoline demand from Iranians now enjoying some of the world’s cheapest fuel, at 1,000 rials (10 U.S. cents) a litre.
In the 2009-10 year, Iran produced 44.6 million litres of gasoline every day but consumed 64.9 million litres, forcing it to import the difference, according to official figures.
U.S. politicians are working on legislation to penalise fuel suppliers to Iran in an effort to pressure Tehran to stop uranium enrichment.
The West says Iran is using its atomic programme to develop a nuclear bomb, while Iran insists it is for electricity.
Asia-based industry sources said earlier this month that Iran’s gasoline imports in May were expected to drop by about 20 percent versus the previous month.
In April, senior management at Russia’s No.2 oil company, LUKOIL, verbally instructed traders involved in gasoline sales to Iran to cease business activity with Tehran.
Malaysia’s state oil company also said it had ceased sales to Iran.
But last month state-run ChinaOil sold two gasoline cargoes to Iran, the first known direct sales to the OPEC member. Previously sales from China were mostly done via third parties.
Separately on Sunday, Iran’s ILNA news agency said an Iranian state energy firm would on June 3 launch a new 250 million euro bond offering to help finance development of the giant South Pars natural gas field in the Gulf.
Part of a one-billion euro bond sale, the first two tranches were offered in March and early May, Iranian media reported. It represents a rare bid by Iran, under U.N. and U.S. sanctions over its nuclear work, to raise capital in this way.
(Reporting by Ramin Mostafavi and Hashem Kalantari; writing by Fredrik Dahl; editing by Louise Heavens)