Asia’s Dec imports of Iranian oil more than double from yr earlier

* Asian buyers import 1.89 mln bpd Iran crude in Dec
* South Korea’s purchase up more than 7 times
* Biggest buyer China’s imports rise 30 pct
Reuters– Imports of crude oil by Iran’s four major buyers in Asia more than doubled in December compared with the same month a year earlier, for the third straight month, with purchases by South Korea up seven fold and India’s more than three times higher.

Iran’s top four Asian buyers – China, India, South Korea and Japan – imported 1.89 million barrels per day (bpd) last month, data from governments and ship-tracking services showed. In absolute terms, imports slipped for a second consecutive month, from a peak of just under 2 million bpd in October, which was the highest since at least 2010, according to data by International Energy Agency.

Iran was exempted from an OPEC deal in January to reduce output by 1.2 million bpd, a boon for Tehran which had argued it needs to regain the market share it lost under Western sanctions targeting its nuclear programme.

Across the first full year since the sanctions were lifted, Iran has boosted exports to its biggest Asian customers by nearly 60 percent to 1.63 million bpd.The country has been offering discounts to buyers in return for increasing their purchases, industry sources have said. Iran’s crude oil imports cost Japan an average $43.87 abarrel for December, the third cheapest after Ecuador and Columbia, trade data from Japan’s Ministry of Finance showed on Monday. Japan’s trade ministry on Tuesday released official data showing its imports jumped more than 40 percent from a year earlier to 246,243 bpd last month.

China’s imports rose 30 percent to 689,530 bpd, meaning the country regained top spot among consumers after buying less than India for three consecutive months. India’s imports grew to 546,600 bpd, while South Korea’s purchases rocketed to 410,387 bpd. Iran’s total monthly oil exports are set to climb slightly in February from January, as Indonesia takes its first shipment since sanctions were lifted, a person with knowledge of Iran’s tanker loading schedule told Reuters last week.

January exports were set to fall to the lowest since July at about 2.16 million bpd, with February loadings likely to be just over 2.2 million bpd, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity.The following tables show Asia’s Iran crude imports in bpd for last month and last year:
Country Dec-16 Dec-15 yr/yr pct
China 689,530 530,630 30.0
India 546,600 181,200 201.7
Japan 246,243 174,990 40.7
South Korea 410,387 57,323 615.9
Total 1,892,760 944,143 100.5

Country 2016 2015 yr/yr pct
China 624,243 532,292 17.3
India 472,900 208,300 127.1
Japan 227,142 170,360 33.3
South Korea 305,852 116,164 163.3
Total 1,630,137 1,027,116 58.7

(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori and Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by
Kenneth Maxwell)