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S.Korea's Iranian crude oil imports rise around 40% on year in Aug

SEOUL (Reuters) — South Korea's imports of Iranian crude oil increased 40.2% in August from the same month a year earlier, with its refiners snapping up competitively priced cargoes from the Middle Eastern nation.

South Korea, the world's fifth-biggest crude importer, brought in 1.55 MMt of Iranian crude last month, or 365,641 bpd, compared with 1.1 MMt in the same month in 2016, customs data showed on Friday.

Iran has been boosting oil production since Western sanctions over its nuclear program were lifted last year, aiming to increase crude output to 4.5 MMbpd within 5 yr.

In the first eight months of 2017, South Korea's oil imports from Iran were 12.22 MMt, or 368,529 bpd, up 46.7% from 8.33 MMt during the same period the year before, the data showed.

South Korea, one of Iran's major Asian clients, mainly purchases an ultra-light oil, also known as condensate, from the country, but a breakdown of imports is not available. It uses condensate to produce more expensive fuels like naphtha,

For Asian buyers, Iran set the official selling prices of its light and heavy grades at 18 cents and $1.17 respectively below the Oman/Dubai average for August, while it raised September Iranian Light oil prices 20 cents higher than those in August.

While the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members and some non-members strive to curb their production to clear a global oil glut, Iran is not capping its output as it was excluded from the OPEC-led supply cut deal to reduce their production by around 1.8 MMbpd until next March.

Meanwhile, South Korea imported 4.05 MMt of crude, or 957,283 bpd from Saudi Arabia, up 9.8% from 3.69 MMt a year ago, the data showed.

Overall, South Korea's total crude imports in August rose 17.7% to 13.55 MMt, or 3.20 MMbpd, according to the data.

In January–August of 2017, South Korea shipped in 98.23 MMt of crude, or 2.96 MMbpd, up 3.9% from 94.55 MMt over the same period last year.

State-run Korea National Oil Corp (KNOC) is set to release South Korea's final data for August crude imports later this month.

Reporting by Jane Chung; Editing by Joseph Radford

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