S.Korea’s Nov Iran crude oil imports fall to 5-mth low

Reuters – South Korea’s Iranian crude oil imports in November dropped to the lowest level since June, due to reduced shipments from the Middle Eastern country to Asia affected by its production issues.

South Korea’s November imports from Iran were around 1.3 million tonnes, or 316,575 barrels per day (bpd), customs data showed on Friday. The import volume was 25.2 percent lower from 1.73 million tonnes from a year earlier, and 21.6 percent down from October.

South Korea, one of Iran’s major Asian buyers, mainly buys an ultra-light oil, also known as condensate, but the crude oil data usually includes condensate without a breakdown of the imports.

Iran has stepped up its oil output to regain its lost market share since sanctions were lifted last year. But its condensate exports had been dented due to a “technical problem” at the South Pars field, with maintenance likely to take for 1-2 months.

Nevertheless, Iran continues to retain its major Asian oil customers by offering spot cargoes and setting December prices at the lowest against Saudi light and heavy grades to make its oil products competitive.

South Korea’s oil imports from Iran in the first 11 months of this year jumped 36.5 percent to nearly 17 million tonnes, or 372,890 bpd, compared with 12.45 million tonnes over the same period last year, according to the customs data.

The world’s No.5 crude importer’s crude imports in November totalled 12.56 million tonnes, or 3.07 million bpd, up 2.4 percent from 12.26 million tonnes from a year earlier, the data showed.

South Korea’s imports of crude oil from Saudi Arabia were down about 13 percent to 3.26 million tonnes in November, or 797,036 bpd, from a year ago as the de facto leader of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is committed to the OPEC-led oil supply cut deal to erode a global oil glut and drive up prices.

In January-November of 2017, Korea’s crude oil imports increased 3.7 percent to 135.51 million tonnes, or 2.97 million bpd, versus 130.71 million tonnes during the same period last year.

Final data for South Korea’s November crude imports data is set to be released by state-run Korea National Oil Corp (KNOC) later this month. (Reporting by Jane Chung; Editing by Michael Perry)