SEOUL: South Korean imports of Iranian oil fell 39.3 percent in March from a year earlier as demand for Iranian crude slowed, the customs data showed on Sunday.
In March, the world’s fifth-largest oil importer imported 1.37 million tons of Iranian crude, equivalent to 324,000 and 612 barrels per day, compared to 2.26 million tonnes a year ago, when import volume hit a record high, according to figures.
South Korea is a key supplier of Iranian crude in Asia, especially condensates, but the data do not provide details on the types of imports.
Seoul has cut its purchases of Iranian crude in recent months from last year’s levels, despite Iran’s efforts to keep its customers in Asia by cutting the official selling price.
Three sources said this came as NOC cut supply to South Korea by 3 million barrels per month this month due to reduced production and the start of a new separation unit.
Importers of condensates in South Korea are seeking to diversify supplies in anticipation of new US sanctions against Iran.
In the first quarter of 2018, South Korea’s imports from Iran dropped 39.4 percent to 3.45 million tons, equivalent to 280,736 barrels per day compared to 5.69 million tons in the same period a year earlier.
Imports from Qatar in the first quarter of the year were 2.19 million tons or 178,652 barrels per day, up 2.4 percent from 2.14 million tonnes a year earlier.
South Korea is likely to turn into Qatari capacitors as an alternative to Iranian supplies.
In total, South Korea’s imports totaled 10.91 million tons, or 2.58 million bpd, down 14 percent from 12.68 million tons a year earlier.