By Lucian Kim and Stephen Bierman
July 29, 2010
Three Russian state-controlled oil companies, including and OAO Gazprom Neft, may begin delivering gasoline to Iran in a month, said the head of the Iran Commission of the .
Talks are being held on a “working level” and the first delivery may take place in late August or September, said in an interview in Moscow today.
“We’re talking about serious deliveries,” Safarov said. “Obviously U.S. and European Union sanctions open up a niche.”
Iranian Oil Minister traveled to Moscow earlier this month to sign a “road map” on Russian energy cooperation for the next 30 years. While the Kremlin in June supported United Nations sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program, Russia criticized additional measures adopted by the U.S. and EU targeting the Iranian energy industry.
Iran, the world’s fourth largest crude producer, is vulnerable because it doesn’t refine enough oil for its own consumption, making it reliant on imports. The U.S. sanctions penalize foreign companies that sell gasoline to Iran.
“Right now logistics, bank guarantees and pricing are being worked out,” said Safarov. The third company under consideration is OAO Tatneft, a regional oil producer based in the Muslim region of Tatarstan on the Volga River, he said.
Until now, only small and medium-sized traders have been delivering Russian gasoline to Iran, according to Safarov. Bigger contracts with state involvement are becoming necessary as demand for gasoline grows, he said.
Many European companies have already stopped selling to Iran. Paul Floren, a spokesman for Total SA, Europe’s second- biggest oil company, confirmed June 28 that the Paris-based company had halted refined products sales to Iran. Russia produces about 2.8 million metric tons of gasoline a month, according to data from CDU TEK, the Energy Ministry’s central dispatch unit in Moscow.
Safarov said some Russian cargoes could be delivered by rail from neighboring Turkmenistan. Others could be shipped across the Caspian Sea by tanker, as Russia doesn’t share a land border with Iran. Safarov didn’t specify any volumes.
The additional sanctions, including those imposed by the EU this week, are “counterproductive” Safarov said, adding that European companies would still find a way to work with Iran via third countries.
, director of international financial reporting for Tatneft, said he wasn’t familiar with the talks. Spokesmen for Rosneft were not available, and the Gazprom Neft press office declined to comment.
Russian Energy Ministry spokeswoman declined to comment, saying talks were up to the companies.
The Moscow chamber of commerce “provides membership to new organizations interested in the development of Russian economy and favorable conditions to help Russian business prosper,” according to its website.