New Delhi, July 24: Iran has pipped Saudi Arabia to become the second-biggest oil supplier to India between April and June, oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan has said. Among Iran’s top clients, India followed China, and imported 5.67 million tonnes or about 457,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil from the country in the first three months of this fiscal year, Pradhan told lawmakers in a written reply on Monday. While the government did not provide comparable numbers from the last year, data that agency Reuters put together shows that India imported about 3.46 million tonnes, or about 279,000 bpd, from Iran between April and June last year.

Last year, state refiners, who are responsible for about 60 percent of India’s 5 million bpd refining capacity, had curbed imports from Iran in protest against Tehran’s move to grant development rights for the Farzad B gas field to other parties.

For this fiscal year, the refiners, Indian Oil Corp, Chennai Petroleum Corp, Bharat Petroleum and its unit Bharat Oman Refineries Ltd, Hindustan Petroleum and Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals, had decided to almost double imports from Iran, which offered almost free shipping and extended credit period on oil sales.

Meanwhile, Iraq continued to be the top oil supplier to India in the April-June period. India imported 7.27 million tonnes of oil from Iraq, while shipments from Saudi Arabia amounted to 5.22 million tonnes, making it the third largest supplier, Pradhan’s statement said.

India and other major buyers of Iranian oil are under pressure to cut imports from the country after Washington withdrew from a 2005 nuclear deal with Tehran and decided to reimpose sanctions on the OPEC member. India had reportedly asked refiners to prepare for drastic reductions or even zero Iranian oil imports. The first set of sanctions will take effect on August 6.  “Indian refineries import crude oil from diverse sources including Iran, depending on technical and commercial considerations,” Pradhan said, without explaining if the refiners would trim imports from Tehran. However, India’s overall oil imports from Iran in June declined by about 16 percent as refiners started weaning their plants off crude from Iran to avoid US sanctions.