Asia's May Iran Oil Imports Jump 34.5%

Asia's May Iran Oil Imports Jump 34.5%Asia's May Iran Oil Imports Jump 34.5%

Imports of Iranian oil by four major buyers in Asia in May jumped 34.5% from a year ago to the highest in at least 4-1/2 years, reflecting Tehran's aggressive moves to recoup market share lost under international sanctions.

The four countries, namely South Korea, Japan, China and India, imported 1.62 million barrels per day in May, government and ship-tracking data showed, Reuters reported.

Japan's Trade Ministry on Thursday released official data showing imports of 307,691 bpd from Iran in May, the highest since January 2012, before sanctions kicked in.

Loadings to Asia in July are about the same as June at 1.63 million bpd, according to the source. Loadings peaked this year in April at 1.71 million bpd.

Shipments to China, Iran's biggest customer, will be slightly over 654,000 bpd this month, up nearly 50,000 bpd from June. India will pick up about 480,000 bpd, the highest since March.

South Korean loadings will be about half of those this month at 190,000 bpd. Japan is set to load about 235,000 bpd.

Iran's total oil exports in July are set to fall from June levels, as the country battles Saudi Arabia and Iraq for market share but are about 70% higher than a year ago, according to a source with knowledge of the country's crude lifting plans.

Exports will be about 2.14 million bpd in July, down from about 2.31 million bpd in June, the highest since January 2012, the source said.

The decline is mostly attributable to a fall in condensate exports, as South Korea cuts purchases of the ultra-light oil and reduced crude liftings from European customers.

Currently the third-largest OPEC producer, Iran's crude exports have nearly doubled since December, the last month before sanctions targeting its disputed nuclear program were lifted, but it is facing ever tougher competition from its rival Saudi Arabia and neighbor Iraq.

This year, "we are really seeing the triumvirate turning the screws, especially with the return of Iranian barrels after the lifting of sanctions," Matt Smith, a director of Commodity Research at ClipperData, said on his daily blog.

"Exports for the three nations are averaging more than 2.3 million barrels per day higher through May year-to-date compared to the same period last year," he said.