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Asia’s Iran oil imports hit 32-month low in September

Imports of Iranian crude oil by major buyers in Asia hit a 32-month low in September, as China, South Korea and Japan sharply cut their purchases ahead of upcoming U.S. sanctions on Tehran, government and ship-tracking data showed. China, India, Japan and South Korea last month imported 1.13 million barrels per day (bpd) from Iran, according to the data, down 40.9 percent from a year earlier. This marks the lowest imports since January 2016, right before the previous sanctions targeting Tehran’s nuclear programme were lifted.

The United States is re-imposing those sanctions against Iranian crude oil exports on Nov. 5 as part of President Donald Trump’s efforts to force Tehran to accede to a more restrictive deal on curbing its nuclear and missile programmes. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed in June to boost supply to help make up for the expected disruption to Iranian exports. Washington is pushing allies to cut Iranian oil imports to zero, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week it will be harder for countries to get waivers on the sanctions than it was under the Obama administration. Japan joined South Korea in temporarily halting Iranian oil loadings, but three of Iran’s top five customers – India, China, and Turkey – are resisting the call to end purchases outright, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The United States cannot stop Iranian oil exports, Iran’s oil minister said last week, warning that such restrictions only ensure that oil prices remain volatile. India’s Iran imports in September rose 27 percent from the same month last year to 527,600 bpd, and buyers there plan to take 9 million barrels of Iranian oil in November, an industry source said, indicating a commitment to continuing purchases. South Korean oil imports from Iran fell to zero in September for the first time since September 2012.

China’s imports of Iranian crude tumbled 41.6 percent in September from a year earlier to 458,000 bpd, according to oil flow data on Refinitiv Eikon. China this year halted the release of country breakdowns for its crude imports. That would mark the lowest Iranian imports by China since January 2017. China’s two top state-owned refiners have not placed orders for Iranian oil for November because of concerns about the sanctions. Japan reduced imports from Iran by 31 percent last month, trade ministry data showed on Wednesday. Japan last loaded crude oil from Iran in mid-September, according to Refinitiv data.

The tables below outline Iran crude imports in bpd by Asia’s biggest buyers for September and the year to date:

  Nation       Sep-18      Sep-17   yr/yr pct
   China     458,184     784,060        -41.6
   India     527,600     415,400         27.0
   Japan     148,775     215,564        -31.0
   Korea           0     504,033          n/a
   Total   1,134,559   1,919,057        -40.9
   Nation  Jan-Sept 2018   Jan-Sept 2017  yr/yr pct
    China       643,869         629,026         2.4
    India       592,400         488,600        21.3
    Japan       164,900         165,391        -0.3
    Korea       213,194         423,304       -49.6
    Total     1,614,363       1,706,321        -5.4

Source: Reuters

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