SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea’s imports of U.S. crude oil soared in August, whereas its imports of Iranian oil stayed at zero for a fourth month in a row, following U.S. sanctions waiver end in May, customs data showed on Sunday.
Imports from the United States were 1.43 million tonnes in August, or 348,562 barrels per day (bpd), up 61.4% from 887,559 tonnes a year earlier, according to the customs data.
Going forward, South Korea, the world’s fifth-largest crude oil importer, is set to keep importing in American oil. Hyundai Oilbank, South Korea’s smallest refiner by capacity, is expected to import its first West Texas Light for October delivery via Aramco Trading Company, according to sources familiar with the matter.
South Korea, one of Asia’s major buyers of Iranian oil, stopped buying oil from Tehran from May after the U.S. government announced to end waivers on U.S. sanctions against Iran that allowed South Korean oil buyers to import Iranian oil, mainly condensate, or an ultra-light form of crude oil.
In August last year, Iranian oil shipments to South Korea were 232,723 tonnes, or 54,802 bpd, the data noted.
For the January-August period, crude oil imports from Iran dropped 45.9% to 3.87 million tonnes, or 116,313 bpd, compared with 7.15 million tonnes over the same period a year earlier.
In total, South Korea’s August crude oil imports rose 2.8% to nearly 13 million tonnes, or 3.05 million bpd.
Oil shipments from Saudi Arabia, South Korea’s top oil supplier, rose 7.6% to 4.19 million tonnes in August, or 986,541 bpd, from a year earlier.
The country’s January-August crude oil imports decreased 2.5% to 97.16 million tonnes year-on year, or 2.92 million bpd, according to the data.
State-run Korea National Oil Corp (KNOC) will release the country’s final crude oil imports data later this month.
Reporting by Jane Chung, editing by Louise Heavens