* China lifted almost 550,000 bpd from Iran in 2014
* Dec imports from Iran up 17 pct from Nov, up 19 pct on yr
By Adam Rose
BEIJING, Jan 23 (Reuters) - China’s crude oil imports from Iran jumped by nearly 30 percent last year to their highest average level since 2011, customs data showed on Friday, as Iran’s largest oil client boosted shipments after an interim deal eased sanctions on Tehran.
Western sanctions against the OPEC member were eased in a late-2013 deal that allowed it to export about 1 million barrels per day (bpd) amid negotiations over its nuclear programme. The lighter sanctions prompted both China and India to raise crude buys from Iran, especially over the first half of 2014.
Last year, China lifted 27.5 million tonnes of Iranian crude and condensate, an increase of 28.3 percent over 2013, the customs data showed. That put its daily average at 549,250 bpd, almost even with the 555,000 bpd imported in 2011 before the United States and the European Union tightened sanctions.
The December imports from Iran rose 19.1 percent from a year ago to 604,740 bpd, and were up 17 percent from November.
China, Iran’s largest buyer, also recorded exporting 320,000 tonnes, or 6,400 bpd, of crude to Iran in 2014, including 240,000 tonnes in December.
The exported volumes likely have to do with the movement of crude in and out of storage that sources with knowledge of the matter said state-owned Iranian oil company is leasing in the northeast Chinese port of Dalian.
Iran has made at least two deliveries of crude from the Dalian site to India and one to South Korea.
China’s crude imports from top exporter Saudi Arabia were down 7.9 percent in 2014 from the previous year to 993,320 bpd.
Imports from Russia came in at 662,140 bpd, up 36 percent from 2013. Russia grew to become China’s third-largest crude supplier last year, behind Saudi Arabia and Angola.
Talks between Iran and six powers - the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany - to resolve the stand-off over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions will resume next month after limited progress earlier this month.
The U.S. and its allies suspect that Iran’s nuclear programme is aimed at making a weapon. Iran says its enrichment activities are for peaceful civilian purposes.
1 Tonne=7.3 barrels Editing by Tom Hogue