S. Korea Doubles crude imports from Iran

S. Korea Doubles crude imports from IranS. Korea Doubles crude imports from Iran

South Korea’s imports of Iranian crude doubled in August from a year ago but fell 8 percent in the first eight months year-on-year, reflecting moves by the world’s fifth-largest crude oil importer to navigate terms of sanctions reliefs.

Preliminary customs data showed on Monday that Seoul bought 567,913 tons of crude oil from Tehran last month, or 134,284 barrels per day (bpd), compared with 558,690 tons a month ago and 272,090 tons a year ago.

The low level of imports in August 2013 reflected South Korea’s move to meet its target of cutting shipments from the OPEC member in the June-November period of last year by 15 percent to extend a US sanctions waiver.

The intake of Iranian crude in January-August this year by Asia’s fourth-largest economy stood at 4.24 million tons, or 127,944 bpd, down 8 percent from a year ago and 5 percent below the 2013 average at 134,000 bpd, according to the data and Reuters’ calculations.

Iran and western powers agreed a preliminary deal in Geneva in November 2013 under which Iran suspended higher-grade uranium enrichment, in exchange for some easing of sanctions on its oil-dependent economy.

South Korea and other Asian buyers are supposed to hold their crude imports from Iran at end-2013 levels - or between 1 million and 1.1 million bpd - under the terms of the Geneva accord.

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.

Overall, South Korea imported 11.4 million tons of crude last month, or 2.7 million bpd, compared with 9.7 million tons in August last year, the customs data showed. Final data for August crude oil imports will be released by state-run Korea National Oil Corp later this month.