India’s crude oil imports from Iran have topped 500,000 barrels per day (bpd), reaching the highest level in at least five years.
Indian refiners imported 506,100 bpd oil from Iran in March, a jump of about 135 percent from February, Reuters reported on Monday.
Tanker data showed the surge came as private refiner Reliance Industries resumed purchases after years of suspension over sanctions.
The report noted that the higher imports by India signals Tehran’s success in beginning to regain market share after the lifting of anti-Iran sanctions earlier this year over its nuclear program.
Iran has said it will continue increasing its oil production and exports until it reaches the market position it held before the imposition of sanctions.
In the fiscal year that ended on March 31, Indian refiners shipped in 14.4 percent more oil from Iran at about 251,100 bpd, the data showed.
The rise was the largest annual growth since the 2007/08 fiscal year.
Essar Oil was the biggest importer of Iranian crude in March with about 207,400 bpd oil, followed by about 130,000 bpd by Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd and about 90,600 bpd by Reliance, its first shipments in about six years.
Reliance had halted Iranian oil imports in 2010 because of sanctions.
Last month, Reliance imported Forozan grade and South Pars condensate from Iran.
Indian Oil Corp, the country’s biggest refiner and not a regular buyer of Iranian oil, shipped in two million barrels or about 67,000 bpd from Tehran last month.
Reports say the Indian buyers are being drawn in part by freight discounts that increase as more barrels are purchased.
Energy-hungry India has also long sought to have a stake in Iran’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects.
India’s Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan is reportedly set to visit Iran on April 6-7 with the intention of signing a “definitive agreement” on a major gas field in the Persian Gulf.
India, which is currently Iran’s second largest oil importer after China, is said to be after more Iranian crude in 2016.