MOSCOW (MRC) -- South Korea's Iranian crude oil imports in November dropped to the lowest level since June, due to reduced shipments from the Middle Eastern country to Asia affected by its production issues, reported Reuters.
South Korea's November imports from Iran were around 1.3 MMt, or 316,575 bpd, customs data showed on Friday. The import volume was 25.2% lower from 1.73 MMt from a year earlier, and 21.6% down from October.
South Korea, one of Iran's major Asian buyers, mainly buys an ultra-light oil, also known as condensate, but the crude oil data usually includes condensate without a breakdown of the imports.
Iran has stepped up its oil output to regain its lost market share since sanctions were lifted last year. But its condensate exports had been dented due to a "technical problem" at the South Pars field, with maintenance likely to take for 1-2 mos.
Nevertheless, Iran continues to retain its major Asian oil customers by offering spot cargoes and setting December prices at the lowest against Saudi light and heavy grades to make its oil products competitive.
South Korea's oil imports from Iran in the first 11 mos of this year jumped 36.5% to nearly 17 MMt, or 372,890 bpd, compared with 12.45 MMt over the same period last year, according to the customs data.
The world's No.5 crude importer's crude imports in November totaled 12.56 MMt, or 3.07 MMbpd, up 2.4% from 12.26 MMt from a year earlier, the data showed.
South Korea's imports of crude oil from Saudi Arabia were down about 13% to 3.26 MMt in November, or 797,036 bpd, from a year ago as the de facto leader of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is committed to the OPEC-led oil supply cut deal to erode a global oil glut and drive up prices.
In January-November of 2017, Korea's crude oil imports increased 3.7% to 135.51 MMt, or 2.97 MMbpd, versus 130.71 MMt during the same period last year.
Final data for South Korea's November crude imports data is set to be released by state-run Korea National Oil Corp (KNOC) later this month.