South Korea Oil Import From Iran Hits Record

In March, South Korea imported 2.26 million tons of Iranian crude, up 118.8% from a year ago.In March, South Korea imported 2.26 million tons of Iranian crude, up 118.8% from a year ago.

South Korea's intake of Iranian crude oil soared to a record high in March and its first-quarter crude imports from Iran nearly doubled on year, reflecting Tehran's efforts to raise output after the lifting of international sanctions early last year.

The increase in volumes since sanctions against Tehran were lifted in January 2016 has made Iran the second-largest oil supplier to South Korea after Saudi Arabia, in the first quarter of 2017, according to preliminary customs data on Saturday, Reuters reported.

Iran was fifth-largest in the first quarter of 2016, behind Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar, according to data from Korea National Oil Corp (KNOC).

The official KNOC data ranked Iran as second-largest for the first two months of the year. The KNOC figures for March and the quarter are due out in one week.

In March, the customs data showed South Korea imported 2.26 million tons of Iranian crude, or 534,368 barrels per day, up 118.8% from 1.03 million tons a year ago, reaching a record. That was up 38.3% from 1.63 million tons in February.

The world's fifth-largest crude importer and one of Tehran's biggest customers shipped in 5.68 million tons of Iranian crude in the first three months of 2017, or 463,234 bpd, up 92.4% from the 2.96 million tons imported during the same period a year ago.

Meanwhile, oil shipments from Saudi Arabia to South Korea, rose 10.9% to 3.52 million tons, or 831,413 bpd, in March on year. That was down 2.6% from 3.61 million tons a month ago as the world's top oil exporter complies with the OPEC deal to cut supplies.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and some non-OPEC members reached an agreement to curb output last year by almost 1.8 million bpd in the first half of 2017. Iran was exempt from the deal.

Korea's crude oil imports from Saudi Arabia fell 10% to 10.44 million tons in the first quarter of this year, or 850,614 bpd, from 11.61 million tons in the previous quarter, but that was 5.7% higher on year.

Overall, Asia's fourth-largest economy brought in 12.68 million tons of crude oil in March this year, or nearly 3 million bpd, up 10.1% from 11.52 million tons a year ago, according to the data.

For the first quarter of 2017, South Korea imported 36.94 million tons of crude, or 3.01 million bpd, up 4.6% from 35.32 million tons a year earlier.

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