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Energy and Resources South Korea imports more U.S. oil in July as Iran shipments remain at zero

South Korea's top refiner SK Energy's main factory is seen in Ulsan, about 410 km (256 miles) southeast of Seoul. South Korea’s oil imports from U.S. and UAE jumped in July, while Iranian shipments remained at zero.

Jo Yong hak/Reuters

South Korea’s oil imports from the United States and the United Arab Emirates jumped in July, with Iranian shipments remaining at zero for a third month due to U.S. sanctions, customs data showed on Thursday.

South Korea, typically one of Tehran’s major Asian oil customers, halted importing Iranian crude from May after the U.S. government announced an end to all waivers on such shipments.

In July last year, before the re-imposed sanctions, South Korea imported 788,651 tonnes of crude oil from Iran, or 185,715 barrels per day (bpd), according to the customs data.

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South Korean oil buyers previously tended to import condensate, or an ultra-light form of crude oil, from Iran.

In the first seven months of this year, South Korea’s intake of Iranian oil dropped 44.1 per cent to 3.87 million tonnes, or 133,321 bpd, versus 6.92 million tonnes during the same period a year earlier, the data showed.

In the absence of Iranian oil imports, South Korea’s imports from the United States almost tripled to 1.91 million tonnes in July, or 463,922 bpd, from the year before. In July, the United States was South Korea’s second-biggest crude oil supplier, overtaking Kuwait.

South Korea imported a record 60.23 million barrels, or 332,751 bpd of U.S. crude in the first-half, and its demand for U.S. oil was expected to remain firm in the second-half on the back of Iran sanctions and rising U.S. crude output, according to data and analysts.

Overall, South Korea’s July crude imports fell 10.5 per cent to 11.53 million tonnes, or 2.72 million bpd, from a year earlier, according to the data.

Crude oil imports from Saudi Arabia, South Korea’s top oil supplier, were 3.34 million tonnes in July, or 787,495 bpd, up 1.7 per cent from a year earlier.

Last month, South Korea also increased its imports from the United Arab Emirates. Its UAE crude oil imports jumped 34.8 per cent year-on-year to 1.13 million tonnes in July, or 265,470 bpd.

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For the January-July period this year, the country’s crude imports decreased 3.2 per cent year-on-year to about 84.2 million tonnes, or around 3.4 million bpd, the customs data showed.

The country’s final July crude imports data will be released by state-run Korea National Oil Corp.

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