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South Korea data: Apr Iranian crude imports fall 17% on year to 10.01 mil barrels

South Korea’s crude oil imports from Iran fell 17.3% year on year in April as the country reduced condensate shipments, with intakes likely to be further curtailed in the wake of the re-imposition of US sanctions against the Persian Gulf nation.

The Northeast Asian country imported 10.01 million barrels of crude from Iran last month, compared with 12.11 million barrels a year earlier, data released late Thursday by Korea National Oil Corp. showed.

This marks the sixth consecutive decline since November last year when imports fell 26.8% year on year to 10.37 million barrels.

The April imports were also down 13.7% from 11.60 million barrels in March.

For the first four months, Iranian imports fell 34.6% year on year to 38.51 million barrels, compared with 58.84 million barrels in the year-ago period.

In 2017, Iranian crude oil imports increased 32.1% to 147.87 million barrels. The country’s monthly imports of Iranian crude had increased since January 2016 when the US and EU lifted sanctions on Iran.

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

South Korea’s imports of Iranian crude are expected to further decline later this year due to the impact of pending US sanctions on tanker transport.

In order to fill the gap, South Korean importers have increased light sweet crude imports from alternative sources such as Russia, the US and Kazakhstan.

South Korea’s crude imports from Russia jumped 41% year on year to 4.53 million barrels in April.

For the first four months, crude shipments from Russia rose 37.7% year on year to 16.51 million barrels, with the rise also driven by lower prices of ESPO blend, according to a KNOC official.

South Korean refiners’ appetite for Kazakhstan’s light CPC Blend also remains strong. They imported 4.28 million barrels of CPC Blend from Kazakhstan in April, compared with no shipments a year earlier.

Over January-April, intakes from Kazakhstan surged more than four times to 12.82 million barrels, compared with 3.11 million barrels a year-ago period.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s crude oil imports from its biggest supplier Saudi Arabia fell 6.6% year on year to 24.57 million barrels in April.

It marks the second consecutive decline following rises for three months in a row. But the April imports were up 12.6% from 21.82 million barrels in March.

Crude imports from other OPEC producers such as the UAE and Qatar also declined in April, while shipments from Iraq and Kuwait rose from year earlier.

South Korea’s crude imports from Middle Eastern suppliers declined 6.3% year on year to 67.83 million barrels in April, compared with 72.35 million barrels a year earlier.

This marked the eighth consecutive decline in South Korea’s monthly crude imports from the Middle East since September last year as a result of OPEC-led drive to limit their production in order to balance an oversupplied market.

Over January-April, imports from the Middle East dipped 9.3% year on year to 282.88 million barrels, compared with 311.73 million barrels in the same period last year.

In total, South Korea imported 87.15 million barrels, or 2.91 million b/d, of crude oil in April, up 3.1% from 84.52 million barrels a year earlier. The April imports were also up 5.2% from 82.84 million barrels in March.

For the first four months, the country’s crude imports edged up 0.4% year on year to 364.26 million barrels.

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

South Korea’s crude stockpiles increased 21.7% year on year to 47.34 million barrels in April, compared with 38.91 million barrels a year earlier.

The country’s crude stockpiles have steadily climbed on a yearly basis through since November 2015 on the back of increased crude oil imports for the past months.

South Korean stockpiles of overall oil products fell 2.4% year on year to 60.77 million barrels in April.

South Korean refiners and condensate splitters, processed 87.41 million barrels of crude in April, or 2.91 million b/d, up 1.9% from 85.81 million barrels a year earlier.

Source: Platts

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