Islamabad: Iran has given Pakistan an offer that looks like it is too good to refuse. Tehran offered 100,000 barrels per day of crude supply to fuel-starved Pakistan on a long term deferred payment.
This offer comes amid US efforts to block Iran's oil exports to the world to build up economic pressure in an attempt to curb Tehran's 'going nuclear' ambitions.
Sources told The Express Tribune that the Iranian government made the offer during the visit of the petroleum adviser Dr Asim Hussain to Tehran earlier this month.
According to sources, Iran had also offered to enhance supply if the two sides moved ahead on the proposed oil exports plan. The crude oil imported will be processed by Pakistani refineries.
"Iran is losing half of its oil revenues because of international sanctions imposed over its disputed nuclear programme," AFP quoted Iran Economy Minister Shamseddin Hosseini as saying on Monday. Hosseini put down the loss to difficulties in repatriating oil money.
According to the International Energy Agency, Iranian exports in November were estimated at 1.3 million barrels per day, down from nearly 2.3 million last year.
The US is making efforts to block Iran's oil exports as it estimates that crude sales provide about half of Iranian government revenues and that oil products make up nearly 80% of the country's total exports.
US is already working to convince the Government of Pakistan to shelve the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project, designed to import 750 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) of gas from Iran to meet its domestic requirements. The recent Iranian offer may further anger the US and pressure may build upon Pakistan to refuse.
"At present, Pakistan is facing problems in repayment of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Stand-By Arrangement $7 billion loan and long term oil credit facility may ease pressure on foreign exchange reserves," a senior government official said, adding that however, Pakistan many not be able to materialise the offer due to payments issues.
Pakistan was importing 73 megawatts (MW) to meet the requirements of Gwadar in Balochistan but payment issues were hampering these imports.
Previously, Tehran supplied 45,000 barrels of crude oil to Pakistan on a three-month deferred payment plan until January 2011. However, the United Nations imposed sanctions halted imports due to difficulties in opening letters of credit from global banks. Since then, Iranian oil is largely smuggled into Pakistan. "So, the payment issue may again halt the oil supplies if offer materialises," official said.
An official said that Pakistan Refinery Limited (PRL) was designed in 1962 to process Iranian oil. "But consumption of Iranian oil in Pakistan is very low and therefore PRL has made modifications," he said, adding that no refinery in Pakistan can process 100% Iranian crude oil. "The oil pipeline between two countries may be feasible If Iran sets up a refinery in Pakistan," he added.
Sources said that petroleum adviser Hussain had also discussed a plan of establishing a Iran-sponsored refinery in Gwadar and laying an oil pipeline between two countries.
"Under the plan, an oil pipeline is to be laid right up to the Gwadar Port, where a crude oil refinery will be set up. Pakistan and Iran may enter into a joint venture partnership to set up the refinery," sources said. Iranian oil had more component of furnace oil and Pakistan furnace oil requirement had increased from three to four million tons in 2004-05 to nine million tons in the ongoing financial year. The production of furnace oil capacity of local refinery is up to 3.5 million tons annually.