S. Korea’s March Ira­nian Crude Oil Im­ports Down 39.3%

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SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea’s March crude oil im­ports from Iran dropped 39.3 per­cent from a year ear­lier on slow­ing de­mand for Ira­nian oil, the coun­try’s cus­toms data showed on Sun­day.

In March, the world’s fifth-big­gest crude oil im­porter, im­ported 1.37 mil­lion tons of Ira­nian crude, or 324,612 bar­rels per day (bpd), from 2.26 mil­lion tons from the pre­vi­ous year when the im­port vol­ume hit a record high, ac­cord­ing the cus­toms data.

South Korea, one of Asia’s ma­jor Ira­nian oil cus­tomers, mainly buys con­den­sate, or an utlra-light oil, but its data does not pro­vide a break­down of im­ports by types.

Seoul has re­duced its pur­chases of Tehran’s oil in re­cent months com­pared to last year’s lev­els, de­spite the Mid­dle Eastern coun­try’s ef­forts to re­tain its Asian buy­ers by cut­ting of­fi­cial sell­ing prices.

That came as the Na­tional Ira­nian Oil Com­pany had cut sup­plies to South Korea by 3 mil­lion bar­rels each month from the start of this month due to lower pro­duc­tion and a start of a new split­ter, ac­cord­ing to three sources.

South Korean con­den­sate buy­ers were also seek­ing to di­ver­sify sup­plies should the United States im­pose new sanc­tions against Iran.

For the first quar­ter of 2018, South Korea’s im­ports from Iran fell 39.4 per­cent to 3.45 mil­lion tons, or 280,736 bpd, ver­sus 5.69 mil­lion tons over the same pe­riod last year, ac­cord­ing to the data. Mean­while, crude im­ports from Qatar in Jan­uary-March of this year were 2.19 mil­lion tons, or 178,652 bpd, up 2.4 per­cent from 2.14 mil­lion tons dur­ing the same pe­riod last year. South Korea typ­i­cally switches to Qatari con­den­sate to re­place Ira­nian one. Over­all, South Korea’s March crude oil im­ports were 10.91 mil­lion tons, or 2.58 mil­lion bpd, down 14 per­cent from 12.68 mil­lion tons from last year, ac­cord­ing to the data. In the first three months of this year, South Korea im­ported 36.70 mil­lion tons of crude, or nearly 3 mil­lion bpd, down 0.4 per­cent from 36.88 mil­lion tons from the pre­vi­ous year.

The coun­try’s fi­nal data for March crude im­ports data will be re­leased by state-run Korea Na­tional Oil Corp (KNOC) later this month.

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