Pending the results of the sample analysis, several diplomats said the fact inspectors were granted access to the site showed the deal is holding for now, despite Washington re-imposing punishing sanctions that have targeted Iran's economy.
The exemptions were granted in November when the U.S. rolled out the second phase of sanctions re-imposed after President Donald Trump's decision to walk out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal.
"The crude's API seems to be 48 degrees so in a way it's possible (to replace Iranian condensate) but again we need to check the oil's quality", one of the sources said. He argued that the last round of exemptions was granted in view of, among other things, "a very tight and fragile oil market" in 2018 and the United States did not want to drive up prices by creating new demands for non-Iranian crude.
"The more we can do around the anniversary, the better", added the official, who also said that it takes time for the U.S. Treasury Department to issue sanctions. The country is now negotiating an extension of the sanction waiver Washington granted it last November. Companies, banks, and individuals involved in the purchase of Iranian oil could be exposed to USA sanctions, which include expulsion from the USA financial system.
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Two South Korean refiners have bought an unspecified amount of USA superlight to test it as a potential replacement for Iranian condensate, Reuters reports, citing sources.
China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey are likely to be given waivers that could cap Iran's crude oil exports at about 1.1 million barrels per day, US -based analysts at Eurasia Group said in January.
West Texas Light (WTL) is seen as a potential substitute for Iranian condensate because, when refined, WTL yields a large volume of the refined product naphtha, which can be used to produce petrochemicals.
United States domestic oil production would help offset such a change, the official said.
Diplomats familiar with the IAEA's work say such inspections are often carried out to clear up questions Iran has not fully answered or discrepancies in its declarations. That would remove Italy, Greece and Taiwan from the waivers list.