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S.Korea’s Jan U.S. crude imports rise 53.3% on-year

* Jan U.S. crude imports at 1.72 mln T, up 53.3% y/y

* Total Jan crude imports edge down 0.3% at 12.42 mln T on-year (Recasts, adds details)

By Jane Chung

SEOUL, Feb 15 (Reuters) – South Korea’s U.S. crude imports in January rose 53.3% from a year earlier, customs data showed on Saturday, reflecting the country’s steady purchases of U.S. oil in the absence of Iranian crude due to sanctions.

In January, the world’s fifth-largest crude importer imported 1.72 million tonnes of U.S. crude, or 406,055 barrels per day (bpd), up 53.3% from 1.12 million tonnes from a year earlier, according to the customs data. That was also up 1.2% from 1.68 million tonnes in December.

The United States was South Korea’s No.2 crude oil supplier in January after Saudi Arabia.

The jump in U.S. crude comes as South Korea, one of Asia’s major Iranian oil buyers, halted importing oil from Iran since May 2019 with the end of U.S. sanctions that allowed South Korea to purchase Iranian crude oil, mainly condensate, or an ultra-light form of crude oil.

South Korea’s imports of Iranian crude were zero in January, compared with 227,941 tonnes, or 53,676 bpd last year, the data showed.

In total, the country shipped in 12.42 million tonnes of crude oil in January, or 2.94 million bpd, slightly down 0.3% from 12.46 million tonnes from a year earlier, according to the customs data.

Crude oil shipments from Saudi Arabia, South Korea’s top oil supplier, increased 2.9% year-on-year in January to 3.61 million tonnes, or 853,769 bpd.

The country’s final crude oil imports data from state-run Korea National Oil Corp (KNOC) is due to be released later this month. (Reporting By Jane Chung; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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