* S.Korea doubles March, 1st-quarter crude imports from Iran
* March, 1st-quarter imports from Iran both at records
* Ramp-up in Iran shipments follows exemption from OPEC cuts
* Iran moves into 2nd place on supplier list from 5th a year
(Reworks headline, adds bullets, analyst quote)
By Jane Chung
SEOUL, April 25 Iran ranked as South Korea's
second-biggest oil exporter over the first three months of 2017
as it ramped up output to regain market share after sanctions
were lifted last year, the first time ever it has claimed the
No.2 spot on a quarterly basis.
South Korea's March imports from Iran more than doubled from
a year ago to a record 18.54 million barrels, or 597,935 barrels
per day (bpd), data from state-run Korea National Oil Corp
(KNOC) showed on Monday.
For the January-March period of 2017, Iran seized the No.2
spot with shipments of 46.73 million barrels, also more than
double from the same period last year and the highest on record
for a quarter.
"South Korea couldn't bring crude from Iran for a while
because of sanctions though it used a lot of Iranian crude in
the past. But now as the sanctions are lifted ... crude from
Iran will keep flowing," Kim Jae-kyung, research fellow at
state-run Korea Energy Economics Institute, said on Tuesday.
This year's surge in Iranian crude also came after Tehran
was exempted from production cuts led by the Organization of the
Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to clear a global glut.
Iran's jump to the No.2 spot is due as well to solid
condensate demand from South Korean refiners such as SK Energy
and Hyundai Oilbank.
In the first quarter of 2016, Iran was South Korea's
fifth-biggest oil supplier behind Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and
Qatar, according to KNOC data.
Saudi Arabia held onto its spot as South Korea's top oil
supplier for both March and the full quarter.
Shipments from Saudi Arabia rose 10.8 percent in March from
a year ago to nearly 26 million barrels, or 838,387 bpd, from
23.46 million barrels last year.
In the first quarter, the world's top oil exporter shipped
77.12 million barrels of crude to South Korea, up 4.4 percent
from about 74 million barrels in the same period of 2016,
according to the data.
Overall, South Korea's March imports increased 11.7 percent
from a year ago to 95.9 million barrels, or 3.09 million bpd,
the data showed.
The world's fifth-largest crude importer brought in 278.18
million barrels of crude in the first three months of 2017, up
4.9 percent from 265.3 million barrels last year.
(Reporting by Jane Chung; Editing by Tom Hogue)