South Africa is looking to source oil from Angola, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia to replace supplies from Iran, which is facing sanctions over its nuclear programme, a top energy official said on Friday.

Oil workers walk through pipe installations on a tanker at Bonga off-shore oil field outside Lagos, October 30, 2007. Photo: REUTERS

Africa’s biggest economy used to import a quarter of its crude from Iran, but has come under Western pressure to cut the shipments as part of sanctions designed to halt Tehran’s suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons.

“We intend looking at other countries, specifically in Africa, mainly Angola and Nigeria,” Nelisiwe Magubane, director general at the energy department told journalists. “We also, of course, are going to continue to import from Saudi Arabia.”

South Africa’s crude oil imports from Iran fell 43 percent to 286,072 tonnes in April from the previous month, while supplies from Saudi Arabia nearly doubled to 671,419 tonnes. The remaining 258,184 tonnes came from Nigeria.

The United States granted South Africa an exemption from financial sanctions after the cuts in Iranian imports, Pretoria may still face problems because of sanctions from the European Union, which does not provide any waivers.

Magubane said she expected a “breakthrough” soon in talks with Brussels on the issue.

“The sanctions are not just going to impact the South African economy, but it is also going to impact that of our neighbours,” she said.

Any disruption to crude imports could hit fuel supplies in South Africa, which has suffered shortages in the last year because of strikes and refinery problems.

Refiners in South Africa include Shell, BP, Total, Chevron, petrochemicals group Sasol, and Engen, which is majority-owned by Malaysian state oil group Petronas .

REUTERS