Japan, South Korea plan to resume Iran oil imports from January

US earlier reinstated its sanctions on Iran, after it withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal in May. (File/AFP)
Updated 19 November 2018
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Japan, South Korea plan to resume Iran oil imports from January

  • Japan and South Korea were among the countries issued with a waiver from the US, after it reinstated sanctions on Iran
  • Both countries temporarily halted Iranian oil loading around mid-September

TOKYO/SEOUL: Refiners in Japan and South Korea are looking to resume Iranian oil imports from January after receiving waivers from US sanctions on Tehran, sources familiar with the matter said.
The unexpected resurgence in Iranian oil imports due to the waivers has helped push spot prices for Middle East crude and condensate to their lowest in more than a year.
The United States in November granted exemptions to eight countries, allowing them to import some Iranian crude for another 180 days. Japan and South Korea were among the top five buyers of Iranian crude and condensate before they stopped imports in the third quarter ahead of the sanctions.
South Korean refiners are set to hold their Iranian oil imports at zero until the end of the year, and they may resume shipments in late January or early February as buyers are in talks with Iran to sign new contracts, industry sources said.
“They are seeking to get the best price and are in talks with Iran,” said a source with direct knowledge of the matter.
Most tankers are booked until December, so South Korea may load Iran oil shipments in January at the earliest, he said.
It takes about 25 days for oil shipments from Iran to arrive at South Korea. Iran also has the option of selling oil from storage in Dalian, China, which would shorten delivery time.
Last week, a South Korean delegation was in Iran to negotiate for 2019 supplies of mainly South Pars condensate.
“There are some issues to be cleared like payment. We are not able to buy it at the moment and are not rushing,” a second source said. “Iran is also trying not to sell it cheaper. We ... won’t import Iran oil until perhaps after January.”
The sources declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.
Japan
Fuji Oil Co, one of Japan’s top Iranian oil buyers, plans to resume Iran crude liftings from January as well, and is also looking to buy condensate.
Fuji Oil was considering whether to sign a new contract for Iranian crude, its top executive said last week, adding that oil from Iran is competitively priced against rival grades.
Japan’s largest refiner, JXTG Holdings, said earlier this month it may resume Iranian oil loadings from December.
But while Japanese buyers are likely to buy Iranian oil through February loadings, they may not take the crude from March onwards, as they wait for the government to extend sovereign ship insurance into the new financial year that starts on April 1, industry sources familiar with the matter said.
Started in 2012 to counter sanctions on Iranian oil, Japan’s sovereign insurance scheme covers any shortfalls from Protection & Indemnity (P&I) insurance for ships carrying crude from Iran to Japan.
The Japanese government has declined to give information on the volumes of Iranian imports that would be allowed under the 180-day exemption period.
Some sources said the sanctions waiver may allow Japan to buy around 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian oil. That marks a significant reduction for buyers that took about 165,000 bpd of Iranian oil in January-September.
Japan joined South Korea in temporarily halting Iranian oil loading around mid-September.


Oil rises on US-Iran tensions, but trade war concerns weigh

Updated 21 May 2019
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Oil rises on US-Iran tensions, but trade war concerns weigh

  • There are expectations producer club OPEC will continue to withhold supply this year
  • President Donald Trump on Monday threatened Iran with ‘great force’ if it attacked US interests in the Middle East

SINGAPORE: Oil prices rose on Tuesday on escalating US-Iran tensions and amid expectations that producer club OPEC will continue to withhold supply this year.
But gains were checked by concerns that a prolonged trade war between Washington and Beijing could lead to a global economic slowdown.
Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were at $72.24 per barrel at 0534 GMT, up 27 cents, or 0.4 percent, from their last close.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 26 cents, or 0.4 percent, at $63.36 per barrel.
“Escalating tensions between the US and Iran, in addition to signs that OPEC will continue its production cut, drove oil higher,” said Jasper Lawler, head of research at futures brokerage London Capital Group.
US President Donald Trump on Monday threatened Iran with “great force” if it attacked US interests in the Middle East. This came after a rocket attack in Iraq’s capital Baghdad, which Washington suspects to have been organized by militia with ties to Iran.
Iran said on Tuesday that it would resist US pressure, declining further talks under current circumstances.
The tension comes amid an already tight market as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Russia and other producers have been withholding supply since the start of the year to prop up prices.
A meeting has been scheduled for June 25-26 to discuss the policy, but the group is now considering moving the event to July 3-4, according to OPEC sources on Monday, with its de-facto leader Saudi Arabia signaling a willingness to continue withholding output.
Price gains were constrained by pressure on financial markets, which have this week been weighed down by worries that the United States and China are digging in for a long, costly trade war that could result in a broad global slowdown.
Singapore, seen as a bellwether for the health of the global economy, on Tuesday posted its lowest quarterly growth in nearly a decade of 1.2 percent year-on-year. Growth in Thailand, a key Asian emerging market, also slowed to a multi-year low.