SA eyes new oil sources

By Drum Digital
15 June 2012

South Africa is looking at alternative sources of crude as tough US sanctions slapped on countries importing oil from Iran are days away from taking effect, a senior government official said on Friday.

"We intend to look especially in Africa, mainly Angola and Nigeria, but of course we are going to continue to import from Saudi Arabia," which produces a crude type close to that of Iran, said Nelisiwe Magubane, the director general for energy.

South Africa was among seven emerging countries that were granted a six-month exemption against the Iran oil sanctions that come into effect on June 28.

Nigeria and Angola are the continent's top oil producers.

The United States and European Union have tightened sanctions in a bid to force Tehran to abandon its contested nuclear programme, and nations which import crude oil from Iran could run foul of the measures.

Under a law approved last year, the United States will penalise foreign financial institutions for transactions with Iran's central bank, which handles sales of the country's key export.

The exemption allows South Africa to continue dealing with Iranian banks for the next six months.

"The exemption period is 180 days and is potentially renewable, provided there has been a significant reduction of the crude oil from Iran during the period of the exemption," government spokesman Jimmy Manyi told reporters.

South Africa says the sanctions hurt its refineries due to increased costs to enable them to refine different types of crude.

Magubane said talks are underway with the EU, which provides insurance on petroleum products during shipping to South Africa.

"There is going to be a meeting in Moscow quite shortly which we believe is going to provide a breakthrough with regards to the sanctions, because we put our case in manner that indicate that sanctions are not going to only impact the South African economy but is also going to impact those of our neighbours."

Most of southern Africa depends on refined oil from the regional powerhouse.

Magubane said she was "cautiously optimistic" of a positive outcome from the talks with the EU.

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