Asia’s imports of crude oil from Iran more than doubled in October from a year ago, government and ship-tracking data show.
The two biggest buyers, India and China, each lifted nearly 800,0000 barrels per day, giving Iran a timely boost to claw back its market share after the lifting of sanctions.
South Korea and Japan included, the four major Asian clients of the Iranian oil took in 1.99 million barrels per day, up 147.9 percent year-on-year.
According to data by International Energy Agency, the volumes were the highest since at least 2010, bringing the country more closer to its target of returning to pre-sanction production levels.
The biggest coup came from India whose imports of Iranian crude rose more than fourfold from a year earlier to 789,100 barrels per day.
Those figures were the highest in at least 15 years, eclipsing China’s imports of 773,860 barrels per day which also more than doubled from a year ago.
South Korea’s imports rose 73.2 percent to 278,882 barrels per day while Japan’s purchases grew 32.1 percent from a year earlier to 202,000 barrels per day.
The figures came ahead of a gathering of OPEC ministers in Vienna on Wednesday to discuss cutting oil production and shoring up global prices which are currently below $50 a barrel.
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said OPEC was close to clinching a deal to limit oil output, the Reuters news agency reported.
Falih said his country was prepared to accept "a big hit" on its own production and agree to Iran freezing output at pre-sanctions levels, it added.
The comments appeared to be a climbdown by Riyadh which in recent weeks insisted that Iran fully participate in any cut.
On Tuesday, Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh said Iran was ready to leave its oil production at levels that OPEC had agreed at its September meeting in Algeria.
Iran is reportedly pushing for a production plateau of 3.975 million barrels a day. The country also wants Saudi Arabia to cut production by as much as 1 million barrels per day.
The kingdom was behind an OPEC decision to scrap a production ceiling after the West intensified sanctions on the Islamic Republic in 2012, which gave Saudi Arabia and other producers the chance to take over Iran’s market share with stepped-up production.
Those countries have been refusing to curtail production following Iran’s return to the market, leading to a glut which has been weighing on prices.
Delegates familiar with OPEC talks said that in their Vienna meeting, the 14 members of the organization were aiming to cut production to 32.5 million barrels per day from their October level of 33.6 million.
Documents prepared for Wednesday's meeting propose the group cut production by 1.2 million bpd from October levels. The papers also propose Saudi Arabia reduce production to 10.07 million bpd from 10.54 million bpd in October.
The group further wants other major producers outside OPEC such as Russia to reduce output by as much as 600,000 barrels a day – an idea which Moscow has balked at so far.
Zangeneh said Russia was ready to reduce output. "Moscow have agreed to reduce their production and cut after our decision," he said.
Saudi Arabia had been resisting a view by some OPEC members to exempt Iran, Iraq as well as Libya and Nigeria from a deal to trim their output.
“We support Iran in the sense that they’ve had sanctions and we have to take that into account in the deal that we make,” Ecuador’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Guillaume Long told reporters in Vienna on Tuesday.
“The same goes for Iraq as well. We know Iraq has a very expensive security situation that it faces, basically a war. We understand that requires special treatment,” he added.
Saudi Arabia, however, was insisting that all members should participate or it would not accept a deal. Falih said on Sunday the kingdom was ready to leave Vienna without an agreement.