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The four biggest oil buyers in Asia, all of which were regular Iranian customers until recently, imported in May the lowest volume of crude from Iran since at least 2014, Reuters reported on Friday, citing data from trade sources and government estimates.
China and India—Iran’s no.1 and no.2 oil buyers, respectively—significantly cut imports from Iran after the United States ended as of May 2 all sanction waivers for all Iranian customers, the data collected by Reuters showed. South Korea and Japan, the other two major Asian oil importers, completely cut off oil trade with Iran in May.
Combined, the four Asian countries imported just 386,021 bpd of oil from Iran in May, a 78.5-percent plunge compared to 1,798,090 bpd of imports in May last year, and the lowest monthly imports from Iran since at least 2014, when Reuters began tracking those shipments.
Chinese imports from Iran plummeted by 63.1 percent annually to 254,021 bpd in May, while India’s purchases slumped by 81.3 percent to 132,000 bpd, according to the data.
In April, Asia’s imports from Iran hit a nine-month high as the biggest oil importers in Asia rushed to buy Iranian oil before waivers expire.
South Korea, for example, imported some 353,000 bpd of Iranian crude in April, up 17 percent on March ahead of the removal of sanction waivers.
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China, for its part, imported around 800,000 bpd of crude from Iran in April—the highest amount that Iran’s top oil customer purchased since August last year—as Chinese refiners rushed to buy Iranian oil ahead of the expiry of the U.S. sanction waiver at the beginning of May.
Yet, it appears that China is not cutting off its oil imports from Iran. Earlier this week, an analysis from TankerTrackers.com said that Iran had delivered the first crude oil to a Chinese refinery complex since the United States removed the waivers. A tanker loaded with 1 million barrels of crude oil from Iran departed on May 28 and arrived on June 20 at Jinxi Refining and Chemical Complex in China in a first independent tanker-tracking confirmation that China is defying the U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil exports.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.