US sells seized Iranian fuel cargoes: Update

  • Market: Crude oil, Oil products
  • 29/10/20

Updates with details throughout

The US Department of Justice has sold the 1.16mn bl of Iranian-sourced fuel confiscated in August aboard four tankers that allegedly were delivering it to Venezuela.

"The US has now sold and delivered that petroleum," assistant attorney general John Demers told reporters today.US attorneys interchangeably described the cargoes as gasoil, gasoline and refined oil, but the State Department's special Venezuela and Iran envoy, Elliott Abrams, today described it as gasoline intended for delivery to Venezuela.

The US District Court for the District of Columbia in July authorized US government agents to seize the cargoes aboard four Greek-owned, Liberia-flagged tankers — the Bella, the Bering, the Luna and the Pandi. "Upon being presented with the court's seizure order, the ships' owner transferred the petroleum to the government," Demers said.

The sale netted around $40mn, which the US Justice Department says eventually will be used to satisfy claims filed in the past decades by US citizens against Iran. But for now, the money is sitting in a government holding account because shippers based in the UAE, Oman and the UK last month told the federal court they hold title to the cargoes.

UAE-based Mobin International, UK-based Oman Fuel and Oman-based Sohar Fuel told the court they were transporting it to Trinidad and Tobago, for sale to customers in Peru and Colombia. Tehran labeled the US seizure of the cargoes as "piracy" but said Iran no longer held title to the cargoes aboard the tankers.

The forfeiture complaint filed by the Department of Justice describes Mobin, Oman Fuel and Sohar Fuel as front companies used by Tehran to facilitate the sale. The Treasury Department earlier this week imposed sanctions on two of those shippers, Mobin and Oman Fuel, but Sohar Fuel was not targeted.

"The claimants will have an opportunity to litigate their claims in a US district court," the Department of Justice said. "Once the claims are dismissed, to the greatest extent possible, the funds will go into the US Victims of Terrorism Fund." At least part of the cargoes appears to have been offloaded at Kinder Morgan's Carteret Terminal in New Jersey earlier this month.

Washington claimed jurisdiction over the cargoes by stating that the ultimate beneficiary of all Iranian oil exports is Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a paramilitary group the US labels a "terrorist organization." The alleged link allows US prosecutors to tap counter-terrorism authorities in pursuit of Iranian cargoes.

The seizure is the first successful attempt by the US authorities to confiscate Iranian cargoes since the re-imposition of a sanctions ban on all exports from Iran in May 2019 — two previous attempts failed to secure Iranian tankers at foreign ports.

Iran in May-June and again in September-October used tankers owned by national company NIOC to deliver a total of eight cargoes of gasoline and alkalyte to Venezuela, helping to temporarily alleviate a severe gasoline shortage in Venezuela. Washington subsequently vowed to disrupt further deliveries of Iranian fuel to Venezuela but can point to success only in the case of cargoes being transported aboard tankers not carrying the Iranian flag.

"I expect them to continue to try," Abrams said today. "What we have been able to do is to get just about anyone else in the world out of that trade, except for Iran, using Iranian tankers."


Sharelinkedin-sharetwitter-sharefacebook-shareemail-share

Related news posts

Argus illuminates the markets by putting a lens on the areas that matter most to you. The market news and commentary we publish reveals vital insights that enable you to make stronger, well-informed decisions. Explore a selection of news stories related to this one.

News
23/05/24

Richmond City Council proposes Chevron refinery tax

Richmond City Council proposes Chevron refinery tax

Houston, 23 May (Argus) — The Richmond City Council in California's Bay Area has paved the way for a tax on Chevron's 245,000 b/d refinery, voting unanimously at a 21 May meeting for the city's attorney to prepare a ballot initiative. The newly proposed excise tax would be based on the Richmond refinery's feedstock throughputs, according to a presentation given by Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) at the meeting. It is a "…legally defensible strategy to generate new revenue for the city," CBE attorney Kerry Guerin said. The city has previously looked to tax the refinery, with voters passing ‘Measure T' in 2008 before it was struck down in court in 2009. This led to a 15-year settlement agreement freezing any new taxes on Chevron's refinery, but the agreement expires on 30 June 2025. The city is projecting a $34mn budget shortfall for the 2024 to 2025 fiscal year and is seeking to shore up its finances with additional revenue. Ballot initiatives allow Californian citizens to bring laws to a vote without the support of the state's governor or legislature, and the tax proposal could go to voters as early as November this year, according to CBE's Guerin. "Richmond has been the refinery town for more than 100 years, but it won't be 100 years from now," Richmond Mayor Eduardo Martinez said during the meeting. Chevron reiterates risk to renewables A tax on the refinery is the "wrong approach to encourage investment in our facility and in the city that could lead to new energy solutions and reductions in emissions from the refinery," Chevron senior public affairs representative Brian Hubinger said during the meeting's public comments. Hubinger's comment echoes prior warnings from Chevron that a potential cap on California refining profit in the process of being implemented by the California Energy Commission (CEC) would make the company less willing to investment in renewable energy . "An additional punitive tax burden reduces our ability to make investments in our facility to provide the affordable, reliable and ever-cleaner energy our community depends on every day, along with the job opportunities and emission reductions that go with these investments," Chevron said in an emailed statement. The Richmond refinery tax is a "hasty proposal, brought forward by activist interests," the company said. The company last year finished converting a hydrotreating unit at its 269,000 b/d El Segundo, California, refinery to process both renewable and crude feedstocks. The facility was processing 2,000 b/d of bio feedstock to produce renewable diesel (RD) and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and said it expected to up production to 10,000 b/d last year. But Chevron has so far lagged its California refining peers in terms of RD volumes with Marathon's Martinez plant running at about 24,000 b/d in the first quarter — half of its nameplate capacity — and Phillips 66's Rodeo refinery producing 30,000 b/d with plans to up runs to over 50,000 b/d by the end of the second quarter . Chevron did not immediately respond to a request for current RD volumes at its California refineries. By Nathan Risser Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Find out more
News

India's RIL seeks use of state-run jet fuel pipelines


23/05/24
News
23/05/24

India's RIL seeks use of state-run jet fuel pipelines

Mumbai, 23 May (Argus) — Indian private-sector refiner Reliance Industries (RIL) is seeking access to pipelines and storage facilities built by state-controlled firms to supply jet fuel from their refineries and depots to airports. India's Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) had invited comments on the development of pipelines to distribute jet fuel to existing and planned airports, to encourage competition and reduce fuel costs. Fuel costs account for 30-40pc of Indian airlines' expenses. RIL suggested that for the common carrier pipeline scope should encompass the associated storage facilities and pumping stations at the "off-site" terminal facilities. The state-controlled refiners in their feedback to the PNGRB said they were open to declaring and developing new pipelines as common carriers. They also claimed that existing jet fuel pipelines are not monopolies as they compete with other modes of transport like roads. But state-controlled refiner IOC in its submission noted that "captive/self-use ATF pipeline being operated were designed with infrastructure of IOCL at both ends and are out of purview of [the] PNGRB Act and its congruent regulations." Hindustan Petroleum suggested that the existing jet fuel pipeline from its 190,000 b/d Mumbai refinery should not be declared as a common carrier pipeline as it will affect refinery production or transport. Bharat Petroleum suggested that all major airports be connected through at least one pipeline. For pipelines operating at more than 70pc capacity, it said the PNGRB should invite bids for a new pipeline to ensure redundancy and offset the risk of dependency on a single pipeline. India's production of jet fuel for the 2023-24 fiscal year ending 31 March rose by 14pc from a year earlier to 369,000 b/d, while demand rose by 11pc to 178,045 b/d, according to oil ministry data. RIL produces around a quarter of India's jet fuel at its 1.24mn b/d Jamnagar refinery complex and exports a large part of it. By Roshni Devi Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

News

Somo issues first gasoil export tender: Correction


23/05/24
News
23/05/24

Somo issues first gasoil export tender: Correction

Corrects sulphur content in paragraph 2 Dubai, 23 May (Argus) — Iraq's state-owned Somo issued its first gasoil export tender, likely because additional volumes are coming from its new 140,000 b/d Karbala refinery. Somo is offering 82,000t (612,000 bl) of gasoil with a maximum sulphur content of 0.9pc over a three-month period from the date of signing the deal, with an option to extend the agreement upon Somo's approval. Somo indicates gasoil is to load from North Company refineries. The bids are to be submitted by 26 May. This is the very first gasoil export tender issued by Somo as Iraq has historically been heavily dependent on gasoil imports to satisfy its domestic demand. Market participants suggest Iraq can now afford to export gasoil because it has ramped up its new 140,000 b/d Karbala refinery south of Baghdad. Karbala refinery began commercial operations in April last year and primarily supplies oil products to domestic market, but in doing so it creates gasoil surplus in the northern part of the country. Iraq has also recently reopened its 150,000 b/d North refinery — part of Iraq's largest downstream facility the 290,000 b/d Baiji complex. The refinery was running at around 70,000 b/d in March, according to market sources. Additional production potentially caused Iraq to stop importing gasoil this year. Iraq's gasoil imports dropped to zero in February and March, show the latest data from Joint Organisations Data Initiative (Jodi). This is compared with around 24,500 b/d gasoil imports in 2023. By Ieva Paldaviciute Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

News

Mexico crude exports up after Tula refinery outage


22/05/24
News
22/05/24

Mexico crude exports up after Tula refinery outage

Mexico City, 22 May (Argus) — Mexican crude exports have bounced back in May after a power outage hit state-owned Pemex's 315,000 b/d Tula refinery last week, likely freeing more crude for the export market. Crude exports rose to about 838,000 b/d so far in May, up by 18pc from full-month April but still 22pc lower compared with all of May 2023, according to trade analytics firm Kpler data. The month-over-month hike was likely supported by a power outage at the Tula refinery on 13 May, which affected up to 20 processing plants, according to market sources. It remains unclear if the refinery has resumed operations, but sources said the restart could take about two weeks. The Tula refinery, which supplies refined products to Mexico City's metropolitan area, processed 246,500 b/d of crude in March, of which 182,000 b/d, or 74pc, was medium or light sour crude, according to the latest Pemex data. Medium and light sour crude exports rose by 13pc to 336,000 b/d so far in May from the previous month, Kpler data show. Additionally, fires at the Salina Cruz and Minatitlan refineries in late April could have also added to the uptick of crude exports. Mexico this year trimmed crude exports to feed its domestic refineries as President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador seeks to cut fuel imports in his final year in office, in line with his campaign promise to make Mexico more energy independent. Pemex's six domestic refineries processed over 1mn b/d in March for the first time in almost eight years, driven by billion-dollar investments in maintenance since 2019 and the cut in crude exports. The start-up of the new 340,000 b/d Olmeca refinery could further reduce crude exports, but the refinery still faces multiple delays . By Antonio Gozain Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

News

Alabama Demopolis lock reopens early


22/05/24
News
22/05/24

Alabama Demopolis lock reopens early

Houston, 22 May (Argus) — The failed Demopolis Lock, at the intersection of the Tombigbee Waterway and Black Warrior rivers in Alabama, has reopened two weeks earlier than projected. The lock reopened on 16 May, ahead of the scheduled 30 May opening . Vessels carrying commodities such as asphalt, coal, petcoke, metals and fertilizers have been able to pass through the lock without a long queue since the reopening, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers. The lock had been closed since 16 January when the concrete sill underneath the lock doors failed. The lock was largely rebuilt over the ensuing four months Traffic that would typically pass through the lock was rerouted during the closure. Multiple steel mills in Alabama and Mississippi move some of their feedstock and finished product through the Demopolis lock. Those mills have 8.16mn short tons (st)/yr of flat, long, semifinished and pipe steel production capacity. By Meghan Yoyotte Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Generic Hero Banner

Business intelligence reports

Get concise, trustworthy and unbiased analysis of the latest trends and developments in oil and energy markets. These reports are specially created for decision makers who don’t have time to track markets day-by-day, minute-by-minute.

Learn more