December 28, 2017 / 6:47 AM / 3 months ago

Asia's monthly Iran oil imports skid to lowest in Nov since April 2016

TOKYO (Reuters) - Imports of Iranian crude oil by major buyers in Asia tumbled 29 percent in November from the same month a year ago to the lowest volumes since April 2016, government and ship-tracking data showed.

FILE PHOTO: A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Gulf July 25, 2005. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/File Photo

In total, China, India, Japan and South Korea imported 1.36 million barrels per day (bpd) last month from Iran, the data showed. The drop comes after imports hit highs earlier this year and last when Tehran ramped up exports after the lifting of sanctions that had targeted its disputed nuclear programme.

The slowdown had been expected, as oil loadings bound for Asia fell below 1.5 million bpd in October, a person with knowledge of Iran’s tanker schedules had told Reuters.

Tehran is pushing to retain its prized Asian customers, hoping price reductions will boost the appeal of its crude compared with other Middle Eastern grades even as the potential threat of a renewal of U.S. sanctions looms.

China, the biggest buyer, purchased 8.8 percent less oil from Iran year-on-year, taking around 557,900 bpd.

Meanwhile India’s refiners cut Iranian oil imports by more than half in November, ship tracking data showed, squeezing them to a 21-month low in protest at Tehran’s decision to award a giant gas field to a Russian company.

Imports to Japan were down 19 percent from a year earlier to 193,141 barrels per day, data released by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry showed on Thursday.

The tables below outline Iran crude imports in bpd by Asia’s biggest buyers for last month and year-to-date.

Nation Nov-17 Nov-16 yr/yr pct

China 557,876 611,338 -8.8

India 265,700 588,700 -54.9

Japan 193,141 237,653 -18.7

Korea 345,700 472,067 -26.8

Total 1,362,417 1,909,758 -28.7

Nation Jan-Nov 2017 Jan-Nov 2016 yr/yr pct

China 627,862 618,202 1.6

India 466,600 466,100 0.1

Japan 167,897 225,374 -25.5

Korea 416,650 296,182 40.7

Total 1,679,009 1,605,858 4.6

Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

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