S.Korea’s Dec Iran crude imports surge 648.2 pct on year

Reuters – South Korea’s Iranian crude oil imports in December soared nearly eight times greater than a year ago, and its 2016 crude imports from Tehran more than doubled from 2015 levels, following last January’s lifting of sanctions targeting the Mideast nation.

The world’s fifth-largest crude importer brought 1.55 million tonnes of Iranian crude in December, or 367,317 barrels per day (bpd), compared with 207,629 tonnes a year ago and 1.73 million tonnes in the previous month, customs office data showed on Sunday.

In November, South Korea’s Iranian crude imports more than quadrupled from a year earlier as Hyundai Chemical’s new condensate splitter boosted the country’s ultra-light oil demand from the Middle Eastern country.

South Korea’s crude oil import data usually includes condensate, but it does not provide a breakdown.

South Korea is one of Iran’s major oil customers. Seoul imported 14 million tonnes, or 281,187 bpd, of crude from Tehran in 2016, up 145.4 percent from 5.7 million tonnes, or 114,595 bpd, in 2015.

Iran, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), was exempted from a supply cut deal agreed by OPEC members last year, capitalising on the exemption by shipping 13 million barrels of oil from floating storage, according to industry sources and data.

Meanwhile, crude imports from Saudi Arabia in December rose 6.7 percent from a year earlier to 4.01 million tonnes, or 948,936 bpd. Imports from Korea’s top oil supplier in full-year 2016 increased 5 percent from 2015 to 43.81 million tonnes, or 879,832 bpd.

Overall, Asia’s fourth-largest economy shipped in 13.24 million tonnes of crude oil in December, or 3.13 million bpd, down 1.2 percent from 13.4 million tonnes a year ago, according to the customs data.

South Korea imported 143.95 million tonnes of crude in 2016, or 2.89 million bpd, up 4.4 percent from 137.83 million tonnes from the previous year.

Final data for December crude oil imports will be released by state-run Korea National Oil Corp later this month.

(Reporting by Jane Chung; Editing by Matthew Lewis)