Oil report

Asia's Iran oil imports hit 32-month low in Sept

    * Asia's Sept Iran imports at 1.13 mln bpd -govt, shipping
    * China, Japan imports fall ahead of U.S. sanctions on Nov 5
    * South Korea imports fall to zero for 1st time since 2012

    By Osamu Tsukimori
    TOKYO, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Imports of Iranian crude oil by
major buyers in Asia hit a 32-month low in September, as China,
South Korea and Japan sharply cut their purchases ahead of
upcoming U.S. sanctions on Tehran, government and ship-tracking
data showed. 
    China, India, Japan and South Korea last month imported 1.13
million barrels per day (bpd) from Iran, according to the data,
down 40.9 percent from a year earlier. This marks the lowest
imports since January 2016, right before the previous sanctions
targeting Tehran's nuclear programme were lifted. 
    The United States is re-imposing those sanctions against
Iranian crude oil exports on Nov. 5 as part of President Donald
Trump's efforts to force Tehran to accede to a more restrictive
deal on curbing its nuclear and missile programmes. 
    The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)
agreed in June to boost supply to help make up for the expected
disruption to Iranian exports. 
    Washington is pushing allies to cut Iranian oil imports to
zero, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week
it will be harder for countries to get waivers on the sanctions
than it was under the Obama administration. 
    Japan joined South Korea in temporarily halting Iranian oil
loadings, but three of Iran's top five customers – India, China,
and Turkey - are resisting the call to end purchases outright,
according to sources familiar with the matter. 
    The United States cannot stop Iranian oil exports, Iran's
oil minister said last week, warning that such restrictions only
ensure that oil prices remain volatile. 
    India's Iran imports in September rose 27 percent from the
same month last year to 527,600 bpd, and buyers there plan to
take 9 million barrels of Iranian oil in November, an industry
source said, indicating a commitment to continuing purchases. 
    South Korean oil imports from Iran fell to zero in September
for the first time since September 2012.
    China's imports of Iranian crude tumbled 41.6 percent in
September from a year earlier to 458,000 bpd, according to oil
flow data on Refinitiv Eikon. China this year halted the release
of country breakdowns for its crude imports. 
    That would mark the lowest Iranian imports by China since
January 2017. China's two top state-owned refiners have not
placed orders for Iranian oil for November because of concerns
about the sanctions. 
    Japan reduced imports from Iran by 31 percent last month,
trade ministry data showed on Wednesday. 
    Japan last loaded crude oil from Iran in mid-September,
according to Refinitiv data. 
    The tables below outline Iran crude imports in bpd by Asia's
biggest buyers for September and the year to date: 

  Nation       Sep-18      Sep-17   yr/yr pct
   China     458,184     784,060        -41.6
   India     527,600     415,400         27.0
   Japan     148,775     215,564        -31.0
   Korea           0     504,033          n/a
   Total   1,134,559   1,919,057        -40.9
   Nation  Jan-Sept 2018   Jan-Sept 2017  yr/yr pct
    China       643,869         629,026         2.4
    India       592,400         488,600        21.3
    Japan       164,900         165,391        -0.3
    Korea       213,194         423,304       -49.6
    Total     1,614,363       1,706,321        -5.4

 (Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Tom Hogue)