South Korea halts Iranian oil imports as sanction waivers cease

South Korea's top refiner SK Energy's main factory is seen in Ulsan, about 410 km (southeast of Seoul. (REUTERS/File Photo)
Updated 17 June 2019
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South Korea halts Iranian oil imports as sanction waivers cease

  • Government plans to extend freight rebates for shipments of non-Middle East crude to the end of 2021

SEOUL: South Korea has turned to alternative sources to replace its oil imports from Iran, which were halted in May when waivers on US sanctions against the Islamic republic expired, officials told Arab News on Sunday.

South Korea is the world’s fifth-largest crude oil importer, and was one of the countries granted a waiver by the US when President Donald Trump’s administration re-imposed sanctions on Iran last November.

Customs data shows South Korea’s imports of Iranian crude for January through May were 3.87 million tonnes, or 187,179 barrels per day (bpd), compared to 5.45 million tonnes over the same period last year.

South Korea is the biggest buyer of Iranian condensate, an ultra-light oil that is low in sulfur and produces no residue, and is used as a raw material for the manufacture of petrochemicals. Iranian condensate is also cheaper than condensate from other countries, such as Qatar, and provides a higher yield of heavy naptha — , a raw material for the production of petrochemicals including paraxylene, which is used the manufacture of plastic bottles.

SK Incheon Petrochem, Hyundai Oilbank and Hanwha Total Petrochemical have turned to other countries, including Qatar and Russia, to replace Iranian condensate, according to industry sources.

Last year, South Korea bought and tested as many as 23 different types of condensate from 15 countries as possible substitutes for condensate from Iran, at a cost of around $9 billion, government and trade data
showed.

South Korean petrochemical makers bought condensate from gas fields in Africa and Europe, in addition to tapping more supplies from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the US and Australia.

“We’ve increased imports of condensate from Qatar, Australia and Russia,” an employee of Hanwha Total Petrochemical told Arab News, on condition of anonymity. “We also started buying oil from the Republic of Equatorial Guinea.”

The refiner has also raised its imports of heavy naphtha in the absence of Iranian condensate, he added.

According to customs data, South Korea’s Qatari crude oil imports rose 10.1 percent year-on-year to 660,752 tonnes, or 155,596 bpd in May, while oil shipments from Saudi Arabia rose 5.1 percent to 3.39 million tonnes, or 798,695 bpd. Meanwhile, imports of crude oil from the US more than tripled.

In an effort to help local refiners find alternative oil supplies, the South Korean government plans to extend freight rebates for shipments of non-Middle East crude to the end of 2021, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

 


Afghan forces kill seven civilians in attack on militants

Updated 25 min 56 sec ago
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Afghan forces kill seven civilians in attack on militants

  • The seven civilians, including women and children, were killed in Logar province, just south of Kabul, on Sunday night
  • Afghan forces, backed by US advisers, have in recent months stepped up their air strikes and raids to the highest levels since 2014

KABUL: Afghan government forces mistakenly killed seven civilians, including children, in an attack on militants south of the capital, a provincial official said on Monday, the latest victims of a war undiminished by peace talks.
Government forces, have been facing Taliban attacks across much of the country, and have responded with air strikes aimed at killing insurgent leaders, even as US and Afghan representatives have been negotiating with the militants in Qatar.
The seven civilians, including women and children, were killed in Logar province, just south of Kabul, on Sunday night said Hasib Stanekzai, a member of Logar’s provincial council. Six people were wounded, he said.
Provincial police confirmed the attack on militants by government forces but said they were investigating the casualties.
“According to our initial information a number of militants were killed or wounded, but local people gathered in the area, claiming that a house belonging to a Kuchi family had been bombed, causing civilian casualties,” said Shahpor Ahmadzai, a spokesman for Logar police.
Kuchi are nomadic herders, but some now live in permanent settlements.
Ahmadzai, who said police were investigating, also said foreign forces were involved in the attack on the militants. Officials with Afghanistan’s NATO force were not immediately available to confirm or deny their involvement in the operation.
Afghan forces, backed by US advisers, have in recent months stepped up their air strikes and raids to the highest levels since 2014.
The latest phase of Afghanistan’s war — which began when US-backed forces the overthrew the Taliban following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States — has intensified despite the most sustained peace talks of the war.
The United Nations has repeatedly expressed concern about civilian casualties, which reached their highest level last year since detailed accounting began nearly a decade ago.
The war claimed 3,804 civilian lives in 2018, that included 927 children, both figures all-time highs, representing an 11% increase in civilian deaths compared with 2017, UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in February.