S. Korea's Iran Oil Imports Down in Sept.

S. Korea's Iran Oil Imports Down in Sept.S. Korea's Iran Oil Imports Down in Sept.

South Korea's imports of Iranian crude in the first nine months were below last year's average, as required under international sanctions, and it imported 48,000 tons of condensate from the United States in September after a US export ban was eased.

Preliminary customs data on Wednesday from the world's fifth-largest crude importer showed that Seoul bought 558,357 tons of crude oil from Tehran last month, or 136,425 barrels per day (bpd), compared with 571,909 tons a year before.

Shipments of Iranian crude in January-September this year into Asia's fourth-largest economy stood at 4.8 million tons, or 128,876 bpd, down 7 percent from a year before and 4 percent below the 2013 average at 134,000 bpd, according to the data and Reuters calculations.

Under a preliminary deal between Iran and Western powers agreed in November 2013, Iran suspended higher-grade uranium enrichment and big Asian buyers including South Korea should hold their crude imports from Iran at end-2013 levels, between a total 1 million and 1.1 million bpd.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday a nuclear deal with the West was bound to happen and he believed it could be achieved by a Nov. 24 deadline.

Only two of South Korea's four refiners, SK Energy and Hyundai Oilbank, import Iranian oil, and imports fluctuate as one of the pair buys the crude only every second month.

Meanwhile, the customs data showed that South Korea imported 47,949 tons of condensate worth $41.76 million from the United States in September, giving an average price of $119 a barrel according to Reuters calculations.

South Korea's GS Caltex, a joint venture between GS Holdings and Chevron Corp, bought the first condensate cargo from the United States since the easing of a 40-year ban on US oil exports.

GS Caltex received the shipment last month and found the US ultra light oil had a satisfactory yield of light oil products.

Overall, South Korea imported 10.53 million tons of crude last month, or 2.57 million bpd. The total was up 5.5 percent from the 10 million tons in September last year, the customs data showed.

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