The Hindustan Petroleum Corp is in talks to buy crude oil from sanctions-hit Syria as the government-run refiner boosts capacity to help meet growing domestic demand, chairman S Roy Choudhury said.
Sanctions aimed at oil exports have cut out regular buyers of Syrian crude, which has mainly flowed to Europe, causing storage tanks to fill up and forcing production cuts.
India currently does not import crude from Syria but any potential discount may make cargoes attractive.
"We are in talks with a Syrian party. But there are lots of issues involved, including transportation," Choudhury told reporters on Friday at the India-Africa Hydrocarbons conference.
Sources said last month that HPCL had asked state-run Shipping Corp of India to arrange a ship to handle Syrian crude and that SCI was scouting for an Aframax vessel.
Syrian oil represents less than one percent of daily global production but export revenue is vital to the government, which is engaged in a bloody crackdown on the country's opposition movement.
Syria produced about 350,000 barrels per day (bpd) before the unrest broke out nine months ago, of which about a third was exported.
India's state-owned ONGC Videsh Ltd is also talking to Indian refiners about importing Syrian crude.
"The European Union oil import sanction prohibits only EU countries from importing Syrian crude oil," junior oil minister RPN Singh has said.
HPCL operates a 130,000 bpd refinery at Mumbai on the west coast and a 166,000 bpd plant at Visakhapatnam on the east coast.