December 07, 2012 11:10
Korean refiners that have been importing crude oil from Iran can breathe a sigh of relief as the U.S. apparently plans to extend a grace period exempting Korea from sanctions on Iranian oil imports.
According to the government and sources in the refining industry on Thursday, talks on the matter are progressing smoothly between Seoul and Washington. The U.S. exempted Korea on June 11 but only for 180 days -- which puts this coming Saturday as the deadline unless the terms of the deal are revised.
Korea experienced tremendous difficulties in importing Iranian crude oil this year due to concerns of potential punitive measures by the U.S. and the refusal of insurers in the EU to offer shipping insurance to tankers carrying the commodity to ports here.
Korea bought 87.18 million barrels of Iranian crude in 2011, accounting for 9.4 percent of its total crude imports. But this shrank to 34.51 million barrels during the first half of this year to make up just 7.4 percent of total inbound shipments of crude.
The spigot was turned off completely in August and September after EU insurers stopped providing shipping insurance to tankers. Iranian crude imports amounted to just 44.55 million barrels during the first 10 months of this year, representing just 5.6 percent of total crude imports.
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