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

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.

 


Sweden discontinues Assange rape investigation

Updated 23 min 35 sec ago

Sweden discontinues Assange rape investigation

  • The case was being dropped because “the evidence has weakened considerably due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the events in question.”

STOCKHOLM: Sweden on Tuesday dropped its investigation into an alleged rape by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is currently in prison in Britain.
Assange, who is battling extradition to the United States which accuses him of publishing secret documents related to his WikiLeaks work, has been facing potential charges in Sweden since 2010. The 48-year-old has denied all allegations against him.
Prosecutor Eve-Marie Persson said the case was being dropped because “the evidence has weakened considerably due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the events in question.”
She said the alleged victim, who accused Assange of raping her in 2010, “submitted a credible and reliable version of events.”
“Her statements have been coherent, extensive and detailed,” Persson said. 
The decision follows a ruling in June by a Swedish court that Assange should not be detained. Two months earlier, Assange was evicted from the Ecuador Embassy in London where he had been holed up since 2012. He was immediately arrested and is currently serving a 50-week sentence in Britain for jumping bail in 2012.
Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, said in a tweet that the focus should now move onto the “threat” that Assange has been “warning about for years: the belligerent prosecution of the United States and the threat it poses to the First Amendment.”
Assange has been battling potential charges in Sweden since August 2010, when an investigation began after two women accused Assange of sexual offenses during a visit to Stockholm. Sweden asked Britain to extradite Assange for questioning, and in June 2012 he sought refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid arrest. That was granted two months later.
After that, the investigation stalled. Swedish prosecutors dropped cases of alleged sexual misconduct when the statute of limitations ran out in 2015, leaving only the rape allegation.
While denying the sexual misconduct allegations in Sweden, he sought asylum for protection from possible extradition to the US on charges.
Ecuador withdrew Assange’s asylum status in April 2019. Assange was arrested by British police and sentenced in May to 50 weeks in prison for jumping bail in 2012. He remains in prison after authorities ruled he was a flight risk and faces an extradition hearing next year to the US to face spying charges