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South Korea’s Iranian Crude Imports Decline

South Korea’s Iranian Crude Imports DeclineSouth Korea’s Iranian Crude Imports Decline

South Korea’s March crude oil imports from Iran dropped 39.3% from a year earlier on slowing demand for Iranian oil, the country’s customs data showed on Sunday.

In March, the world’s fifth-biggest crude oil purchaser imported 1.37 million tons of Iranian crude, or 324,612 barrels per day, from 2.26 million tons from the previous year when the import volume hit a record high, according to customs data, Reuters reported.

South Korea, one of Asia’s major Iranian oil customers, mainly buys condensate, or an ultra-light oil, but its data do not provide a breakdown of imports by types.

Seoul has reduced its purchases of Tehran’s oil in recent months compared to last year’s levels, despite the Middle Eastern country’s efforts to retain its Asian buyers by cutting official selling prices.

That came as the National Iranian Oil Company had cut supplies to South Korea from the start of this month due to lower production and a start of a new splitter, according to three sources.

South Korean condensate buyers were also seeking to diversify supplies, should the United States impose new sanctions against Iran.

For the first quarter of 2018, South Korea’s imports from Iran fell 39.4% to 3.45 million tons, or 280,736 bpd, versus 5.69 million tons over the same period of last year, according to the data.

Meanwhile, crude imports from Qatar in January-March of this year were 2.19 million tons, or 178,652 bpd, up 2.4% from 2.14 million tons during the same period pf last year. South Korea typically switches to Qatari condensate to replace Iranian one.

Overall, South Korea’s March crude oil imports were 10.91 million tons, or 2.58 million bpd, down 14% from 12.68 million tons from last year, according to the data. In the first three months of this year, South Korea imported 36.70 million tons of crude, or nearly 3 million bpd, down 0.4% from 36.88 million tons from the previous year.

The country’s final data for March crude imports will be released by state-run Korea National Oil Corp later this month.

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