Iran plans to commission several oil refineries by the end of 2010 and could become one of the largest gasoline exporters in a few years, the Islamic Republic's petroleum minister said Thursday.
"I believe in 2-3 years we will become one of the largest gasoline exporters in the region and the world," Massoud Mir-Kazemi told the Arab-language Russia Today TV channel.
"In any case, we will produce gasoline at our oil refineries and can stop importing it," said the minister, who is on a visit to Moscow.
Despite being a major crude producer, a lack of refinery capacity means Iran is heavily dependent on gasoline imports.
The International Energy Agency says Iran imported 400,000 barrels of gasoline a day in 2009, but predicts that volume to shrink to 100,000 barrels by 2015 as Tehran increases refinery capacity and eliminates fuel subsidies.
Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said on Wednesday that Russian companies are ready to supply oil products to Iran despite U.S. sanctions punishing companies that sell motor fuel to Iran or help it rebuild its refining capabilities, which have been degraded by years of international isolation.
Anglo-Dutch concern Royal Dutch Shell terminated gasoline deliveries to Iran in March. Dutch-Swiss traders Vitol Holding and Trafigura as well as Swiss raw materials trader Glencore also suspended gasoline supplies. In April, Russia's largest independent oil company LUKoil followed suit.
U.S. President Barack Obama signed in early July a law on expanding unilateral sanctions against Iran. The United States increased pressure on Iran, adding more than 30 Iranian companies and individuals, mainly linked to missile technology programs, to a list of those subject to sanctions.
The law was the first package of measures adopted by the United States following the UN Security Council's passing of Resolution 1929, which imposed a fourth set of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, including tougher financial controls and an expanded arms embargo.
The additional U.S. sanctions affect more than 20 energy, oil and insurance companies controlled by the Iranian government and also ban oil product supplies to Iran. Russia has warned that it will respond to any unilateral sanctions hurting Russian companies.
MOSCOW, July 15 (RIA Novosti)