26-04-2018

South Korea data: Mar crude oil imports from Iran, OPEC tumble

South Korea’s crude oil imports from Iran and other OPEC members tumbled in March, while intakes from non-Middle Eastern suppliers jumped as a result of OPEC-led drive to limit their production in order to balance an oversupplied market.

The country’s crude imports from Iran dropped 37.4% year on year to 11.597 million barrels in March, compared with 18.536 million barrels a year earlier, Korea National Oil Corp. data released late Tuesday showed.

This marks the fifth consecutive decline since November last year when imports dropped 26.8% year on year to 10.37 million barrels. However, the March imports were up 27.6% from February.

For the first three months, Iranian imports plunged 39% year on year to 28.497 million barrels, compared with 46.73 million barrels in the same period a year ago.

The sharp decline in crude imports from Iran was largely attributable to fewer condensate purchases following the startup of new condensate splitters in Iran.

In 2017, Iranian crude oil imports increased 32.1% to 147.873 million barrels. The country’s monthly imports of Iranian crude had increased since January 2016 when the US and EU lifted sanctions on Iran.

South Korea’s crude oil imports from its biggest supplier, Saudi Arabia, also fell 16.1% year on year to 21.817 million barrels in March.

It marks the first decline after rising for three months in a row. The March imports were also down 28.4%, from 30.469 million barrels in February.

In the first quarter, imports from Saudi Arabia rose 3.4% year on year to 79.728 million barrels.

Crude oil imports from Iraq also dropped 17.8% year on year to 8.938 million barrels in March, while imports from Kuwait plunged 37% year on year to 8.626 million barrels last month.

Crude oil imports from other OPEC nations, such as the UAE and Qatar, also declined in March from a year earlier.

South Korea’s crude imports from Middle East suppliers dropped 24.8% year on year to 63.873 million barrels in March, compared with 84.966 million barrels a year ago.

This marked the seventh consecutive decline in South Korea’s monthly crude imports from the Middle East since September 2017.

In the first quarter, imports from the Middle East dipped 24.8% year on year to 63.873 million barrels, compared with 84.966 million barrels in the same period last year.

Among non-Middle Eastern suppliers, Russia, Mexico and Kazakhstan were the biggest suppliers in March.

South Korea’s crude imports from Russia more than doubled to 4.925 million barrels in March, from 2.23 million barrels a year ago, while imports of Mexican crude jumped 65.3% year on year to 4.548 million barrels last month.

South Korea’s crude imports from Kazakhstan surged by more than three times to 3.26 million barrels in March, from 1.049 million barrels a year ago, as South Korean refiners’ appetite for light CPC blend remained strong.

Crude oil imports from the US also more than doubled to 1.041 million barrels in March, from 496,000 barrels a year ago.

In total, South Korea imported 82.843 million barrels, or 2.67 million b/d, of crude oil in March, down 13.6% from 95.913 million barrels a year ago.

It marked the first decline after increases for five straight months in a row. The March imports were also down 12.3% from 94.449 million barrels in February.

For the January-March quarter, the country’s crude oil imports edged down 0.4% year on year to 277.108 million barrels, compared with 278.183 million barrels a year ago.

In 2017, the country imported a total of 1.118 billion barrels of crude oil, up 3.7% from 1.078 billion barrels in 2016.

South Korea’s crude oil stockpiles increased 18.4% year on year to 47.71 million barrels in March, compared with 40.29 million barrels a year earlier.

The country’s crude oil stockpile had been climbing steadily on a yearly basis since November 2015, on the back of increased crude oil imports.

South Korean stockpiles of overall oil products also increased 5.2% year on year to 63.15 million barrels in March.

South Korean refiners and condensate splitters, processed 84.48 million barrels of crude in March, or 2.73 million b/d, down 9.6% from 93.42 million barrels a year ago.

Source: Platts

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