TOKYO: Asian imports of Iranian crude oil rose from a year ago in June, the last month before a landmark agreement that will eventually lead to more exports from the country was reached on Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme.

Imports by Iran’s four biggest buyers — China, India, Japan and South Korea — totalled 1.17 million barrels per day (bpd) last month, up more than 13 per cent from a year earlier, government and tanker-tracking data showed.

Iran is keen to recover market share that evaporated under US and European Union sanctions designed to keep its exports at around 1 million bpd, down from 2.5 million bpd in 2011.

Under the accord reached in Vienna on July 14, Iran will be subject to longer-term restrictions on its nuclear programme in return for the removal of US, UN and European sanctions.

The restrictions are to be removed next year if the deal is approved by the US Congress and inspectors confirm that Iran is in compliance with the limits to its nuclear activities.

Iran, however, has already outlined plans to rebuild its main industries and trade relationships, saying last week it was targeting oil and gas projects with foreign partners worth $185 billion (Dh680 billion) by 2020.

It would take around $100 billion to return Iran’s oil industry to the level of five years ago, Industry Minister Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh said in an interview published in Austrian newspaper Wiener Zeitung on Thursday.

“My sense is that really long term (production) contracts still won’t be in place until maybe mid-2016,” Richard Nephew, a sanctions specialist at the Centre on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, New York, told Reuters Global Oil Forum.

Iranian oil exports may rise by between 300,000 to 500,000 bpd after the nuclear agreement starts in 2016, he added.

More Iranian oil is already on the move though, with at least one 2-million-barrel supertanker on its way to Asia after sitting in Iranian waters for months as storage.

Over the first half of 2015, Asian buyers took in 1.1 million bpd, down nearly 9 per cent from a year earlier.

Japan’s purchases fell more than 50 per cent in June from a year ago to 93,046 bpd, trade ministry data showed on Friday.

— Reuters