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As the start date of the U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil draws near, key Asian buyers of Iranian oil dramatically cut their purchases from Iran in September to the lowest level since the previous sanctions on Tehran were lifted in January 2016, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing ship-tracking and government data.
Total imports from Iran by the four major Asian importers—China, India, South Korea, and Japan—plunged by 40.9 percent year on year in September 2018, to a total of 1.13 million bpd.
India increased its purchases of Iranian oil compared to September last year, but China and Japan significantly reduced their imports from Iran, while South Korea stopped Iranian oil imports altogether—for the first time since September 2012.
China—Iran’s single largest oil customer—saw its imports drop by 41.6 percent in September compared to the same month last year, to 458,184 bpd from 784,060 bpd, according to Refinitiv Eikon oil flow data.
India, the second biggest Iranian oil buyer in the world, imported 527,600 bpd on average in September, up by 27 percent on the year.
Japan cut its oil imports from Iran by 31 percent annually to 148,775 bpd in September, Reuters said, citing Japanese trade ministry data.
According to oil trade flow data, Japan loaded its last Iranian oil cargo in the middle of September.
Japanese refiners have temporarily suspended oil imports from Iran, buying alternative supplies instead, watchful of the situation to see if a waiver is forthcoming, the president of the Petroleum Association of Japan (PAJ), Takashi Tsukioka, said on September 20.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said earlier this month that it would be more difficult for Iranian oil customers to get waivers from the sanctions than it was during the Obama administration, and the United States would issue waivers, if any, only to buyers that have significantly reduced Iranian purchases.
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.