NEW DELHI, Nov 2 (Reuters)
India's top refiner Indian Oil Corp Ltd said on Friday the United States might allow the country to keep buying oil from sanctions-hit Iran as removing Iranian supplies from the market would impact global crude prices.
"I can't say there will be a waiver or no waiver, but definitely we are hopeful that we will have some sort of clearance to continue with Iran," said Sanjiv Singh, Indian Oil chairman.
Cutting Iranian crude exports to zero would be a "tough call" not only for India but for the global oil trade, Singh said.
The United States plans to impose new sanctions on Iran's oil industry on Nov. 4 after Washington withdrew from a nuclear deal between Tehran and other global powers earlier this year.
The U.S. government has agreed to let eight countries, including South Korea, Japan and India, keep buying Iranian oil after it reimposes sanctions on Tehran, Bloomberg cited a U.S. official as saying.
Indian Oil has a deal to buy up to 9 million tonnes of Iranian oil in the 2018/19 financial year.
Singh said his company had arranged to buy replacements for Iranian crude if necessary.
India will buy 9 million barrels, or about 1.3 million tonnes, of Iranian oil in November, two industry sources told Reuters, indicating the world's third-biggest oil importer will continue purchasing crude from the Islamic Republic.
Indian refiners imported around 10 million barrels, or about 1.4 million tonnes, of Iranian crude in October.
Sources last month told Reuters India was hopeful of receiving a waiver from U.S. sanctions as the country had substantially reduced its oil purchases from Tehran.
An Indian government source told Reuters the United States could announce a waiver for New Delhi on Sunday.
India would continue to buy Iranian oil in the current fiscal year to March but to secure the waiver it may agree to cut purchases further, the government source said.
Singh said India had in the past paid for Iranian oil through various mechanisms including part payment in rupees, part payment in euros and also deferred payment.
"All such options are still being debated," he said.
Separately, Indian Oil's head of finance A K Sharma said Iran had sometimes agreed to accept payment in rupees from Indian Oil.
"We have settled two/three payments in this financial year for Iran through UCO Bank," he said, adding that it would help the Indian currency if Iran started taking payment in rupees.
"If the requirement for dollars is less, it helps," Sharma said.
He said Indian refiners had also asked other oil suppliers to start taking payment in rupees, an issue that had been raised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a meeting with global producers including Saudi Arabia last month.