South Korea’s Nov crude imports from Iran remain at zero due to US sanctions

South Korea imported no Iranian crude in November for a third straight month due to the re-imposition of US sanctions on Tehran, according to preliminary data released by the Korea Customs Service on Monday. 
In September, South Korea’s imports of Iran oil fell to zero for the first time since September 2012 amid then US-led sanctions on Iran.
South Korea has sharply reduced imports of Iranian crude and condensate since May this year to brace for the re-imposition of the US sanctions.
For the first eleven months of this year, Iranian imports more than halved to 58.2 million barrels, compared with 139.16 million barrels in the year-ago period.
South Korea was granted a temporary exemption for crude imports from Iran after agreeing to reduce its purchases “significantly,” just as US sanctions against Tehran come into force in early November.
The South Korean government refused to elaborate on the “significant volume,” but sources familiar with the matter have said that the country would be able to import 4 to 6 million barrels/month of Iranian crude, mostly condensate under the waiver.
South Korea imported an average of 12.32 million barrels/month of crude and condensate from Iran in 2017, according to data from state-run Korea National Oil Corp.
South Korea’s actual resumption of Iranian oil liftings could come as early as January onwards as it takes time to make various arrangements, including on shipping, as well as shipping insurance concerns.
SK Innovation, South Korea’s biggest buyer of Iranian crude, said it was making best efforts to resume imports for January delivery. “We hope insurances and other concerns would be addressed soon so that we can bring Iranian cargoes in January,” a company official said.
But other South Korean importers of Iranian oil are not rushing to resume South Pars condensate imports from Iran amid the shipping insurance concerns and competitive availability of naphtha as an alternative supply.
To make up for the loss of Iranian barrels, South Korea’s crude imports from its biggest supplier Saudi Arabia jumped 16.6% year on year to 3.84 million mt, or 28.15 million barrels, in November, from 24.14 million barrels a year earlier.
But the November imports were down 8.5% compared with 30.76 million barrels in October.
In total, South Korea imported 12.71 million mt (93.16 million barrels or 3.11 million b/d) of crude oil in November, down 1.6% from 94.67 million barrels a year earlier, as a result of receiving no cargoes from Iran.
The November imports were also down 4.7% from October’s 97.77 million barrels.
For January-November, the country’s crude oil imports edged up 0.3% year on year to 1,021.13 million barrels, compared with 1,018.32 million barrels in the year-ago period.
On the back of the rise in imports, South Korea’s crude stockpiles rose 11.4% year on year to 48.69 million barrels as of end-October.
In 2017, the country imported a total 1.118 billion barrels of crude oil, up 3.7% from 1.078 billion barrels in 2016.
Monitoring Desk

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