South Korea’s Iranian crude imports soar 104%

Mar 17, 2014 12:00 AM

South Korea increased its crude imports from Iran by 104% in February from last year as refiners increased purchases ahead of maintenance due to start in March.

South Korea imported 1.1 million tonnes of Iranian crude last month, or 294,069 barrels per day (bpd), up 4.5 times from January and double from a year earlier, preliminary customs data showed.

In the first two months of the year, South Korea imported 173,744 bpd, up 2.3 percent from a year ago, and a surge of 30% from the 134,000 bpd that Seoul took from Iran in 2013.

Under the Geneva accord between Iran and six major powers last November that took effect in January, South Korea and other Asian buyers can hold to crude imports at the sanctions-reduced rates reached at the end of 2013.

"The two refiners had to hike the imports ahead of maintenance shutdown starting from March. Before and after the maintenance, refiners usually import more to meet annual import contracts," a Seoul-based refining source told.

Of four South Korean refiners, SK Energy and Hyundai Oilbank are the only ones that buy Iranian oil on a regular basis. Their Iranian crude imports can vary from month to month as one of the two refiners that buy from the OPEC receives the oil only every other month.

SK Energy will shut a 260,000 bpd No. 5 crude distillation unit (CDU) and a 57,000-bpd No.1 gasoline-making unit in the second quarter for maintenance, a spokesman at parent SK Innovation Co Ltd said.
Hyundai Oilbank will shut its No.1 110,000-bpd CDU in April for maintenance, it said last month.

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