February 15, 2018 / 12:54 AM / a year ago

CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-S.Korea's Jan crude imports from Iran fall to 15-month low

(Corrects to say three bodies, not three crew members in 2nd paragraph)

* Jan Iranian crude imports at 950,013 T, lowest since Oct 2016

* Total Jan crude imports at 13.25 mln T, up 7 pct y/y

By Jane Chung

SEOUL, Feb 15 (Reuters) - South Korea’s crude oil imports from Iran fell 47 percent in January from a year ago to 950,013 tonnes, or 224,632 barrels per day (bpd), the lowest since October 2016, customs data showed on Thursday.

The fall in South Korea’s Iranian oil intake partly reflects the sinking last month of an Iranian tanker carrying 136,000 tonnes of condensate after a collision with a Chinese cargo ship. The bodies of three of the 32 crew members were recovered and the other 29 are presumed dead.

The condensate cargo was to be delivered to South Korea’s petrochemical company Hanwha Total Petrochemical.

South Korea, the world’s fifth-biggest crude oil importer, mainly buys condensate - an ultra-light oil - from Iran and increased purchases of the oil after sanctions against the Islamic republic were lifted in 2016.

But South Korea’s oil imports from Iran have declined since November 2017 as Iran’s condensate exports had been dented by a “technical problem” at South Pars field.

The Middle East country cut the official selling price for its crude in February and widened discounts for heavy grades against Saudi Arabia to retain its major Asian buyers.

Overall, South Korea’s January crude oil imports totalled 13.25 million tonnes, or 3.13 million bpd, up 7.1 percent from 12.37 million tonnes in the same month last year, according to the data.

Crude oil imports from Saudi Arabia, South Korea’s top crude oil supplier, rose 11.2 percent from a year ago to 3.69 million tonnes in January, or 872,840 bpd, but were down 7.8 percent on December as the kingdom continues to curb its oil output to comply with a global oil supply cut deal.

Final data for South Korea’s January crude imports data will be released by state-run Korea National Oil Corp (KNOC) later this month.

Reporting by Jane Chung; editing by Richard Pullin

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