Turkey Looks Beyond Iranian Barrels

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Back in 2014, amid sanctions on Iran, Turkey was importing around 100,000 barrels per day of Iranian oil. Imports doubled to over 200,000 bpd in 2017, before the re-imposition of sanctions by the United States late last year. 

The drop in crude imports both this year and in 2014 compared to 2017 levels is a reflection of the severity of Washington’s sanctions:


Ankara, just like Beijing, objected vocally to the end of US waivers on imported Iranian oil, giving the impression they may not abide with the US decision. “Turkey rejects unilateral sanctions and imposition on how to conduct relations with neighbors,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in a tweet on April 22.

Even though countries with waivers have continued to pull in Iranian crude over the last six months, they have reduced the number of barrels received from Iran and diversified their suppliers. Given what we see in our flows data, it appears that Iranian oil importers were aware that waivers may not be renewed prior to Washington’s announcement on April 22. 

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So far this year, we have seen changes in Turkey’s crude oil sources, both in light and medium grades. We see Turkey importing more oil from Russia (medium), Kazakhstan (light), Libya (light), and Nigeria (light and medium) compared to 2018.

Of those barrels, Russia has been exporting significantly more to Turkey this year. In March, Turkey imported over 200,000 bpd of Urals, the highest monthly pace on our records.

Compared to last year, crude from Nigeria and Libya has been more or less continuous over the first four months of the year. From January to April of last year, we did not see Turkey importing any Libyan crude, unlike this year when imports averaged 24,000 bpd. Nigerian exports so far this year are up about 16 percent compared to the same period last year.

Iraqi flows have also shown a dramatic change in trend. Turkey’s imports of Basrah Light averaged 38,000 bpd in the first four months of last year, but have doubled in 2019 to average 80,000 bpd:

Turkey 2

In April 2018, Turkey imported an average of 240,000 bpd of Iranian crude oil. So far this month, Turkey has imported less than half that volume, with flows only likely to come under further downward pressure from here.