South Korea imported its first Iranian natural gas liquids (NGL) in eight months in March, customs data showed on Monday, after having halted shipments last July because of EU sanctions restricting insurance on tankers carrying Iranian oil.
South Korea imported a total of 101,029 tonnes of NGL – a feedstock for petrochemical production – last month, with 72,750 tonnes coming from Iran, the data showed.
The Iranian NGL import volumes had been expected as South Korea’s Samsung Total Petrochemicals (STC) in January revived a contract to buy Iranian oil, lured by cheap fuel.
Its French owner Total in February said it objected the deal, and there was only one spot purchase.
It was not clear if STC took the full Iranian volume or if there was more than one South Korean buyer.
An STC spokesman declined to comment on the imports.
South Korea halted imports of Iranian NGL, a light condensate processed for petrochemical production, in July because it was unable to find ships to carry the feedstock due to the European Union sanctions.
The United States and the EU have imposed sanctions aimed at halting Iran’s nuclear programme, which the West suspects is being used to develop arms. Tehran denies this.
Two sources familiar with the situation said NGL shipments to South Korea could have resumed using Iranian ships.
South Korea, the world’s fifth-largest crude oil and second-largest liquefied natural gas importer, bought 464,963 tonnes of NGL last year, according to the customs data.
Of the total, 372,203 tonnes came from Iran before being stopped in July, and the rest from the United Arab Emirates.