* Jan condensate exports to fall 17 pct vs Dec
* First condensate loading to Netherlands since sanctions lifted
* Crude, condensate exports in Dec hit 5-month low
By Osamu Tsukimori
TOKYO, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Iranian condensate exports are set to fall 17 percent to a five-month low this month, a source with knowledge of Iran’s preliminary tanker schedule said, as main buyer South Korea cuts purchases by nearly half and takes more barrels from Qatar.
Loadings of condensate in January are set to reach about 385,000 barrels per day (bpd), down from an estimated 462,000 bpd in December.
Shipments of the ultra-light oil have eased since reaching a 2016 high of 560,000 bpd in October, more than double the level from January 2016 when Western sanctions against Tehran were lifted.
Iran, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, does not publish monthly data on its condensate and crude exports.
The expected fall in Iranian condensate shipments is mainly due to a significant drop in buying from South Korea, which is scheduled to import a six-month low of 111,000 bpd, nearly half the 201,000 bpd taken in December, according to the source, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.
The Asian nation has increased purchases of Qatari condensate after the Middle East country offered more of the fuel for exports, according to traders. Iran and Qatar are the world’s biggest condensate exporters.
Last year, robust South Korean demand helped spark a recovery of Iranian crude and condensate exports to a five-year high in September.
Iran scored a victory when it was exempted from the OPEC deal agreed in November to reduce production by 1.2 million bpd, and traders have expected it to raise output slightly and boost exports to reclaim market share.
Tehran has also been aggressively marketing oil from its offshore storage. It has sold more than 13 million barrels of oil that it had long held on tankers at sea.
Iranian crude and condensate exports last month hit a five-month low of around 2.34 million bpd, down 4 percent from the previous month, as slowing Asian demand offset strong European demand, the source said.
The Netherlands loaded nearly 30,000 bpd of condensate last month, the source said, marking its first lifting from Iran following the lifting of sanctions.
The preliminary tanker schedule for crude shipments in January was not yet available.
Iranian oil exports to Asia last month fell about 18 percent from November to a nine-month low of 1.43 million bpd, as all major importers except India cut their purchases, the source said.
Loadings for Europe rose by 14 percent from November to nearly 800,000 bpd, topping levels seen prior to the imposition of toughened Western sanctions in 2012.
Crude and condensate that loaded last month include 434,000 bpd for China, down 26 percent from November; 534,000 bpd for India, up 4 percent; 202,000 bpd for Japan, down 1 percent; and 261,000 bpd for South Korea, down 30 percent.
Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Additional reporting by Florence Tan in SINGAPORE; Editing by Tom Hogue and Randy Fabi