(Adds bpd conversion and more details)
* Jan crude imports from Iran at 275,169 T -customs
* Jan crude imports from Iran at 65,064 bpd, down 66 pct y/y
* Total Jan crude imports at 10.5 T, down 4 pct y/y
By Meeyoung Cho
SEOUL, Feb 15 South Korea's crude imports from
Iran fell 51 percent in January from a month earlier, and
shipments are expected to remain at around 125,000 bpd through
the first six months of the interim deal on Tehran's nuclear
Under the Geneva accord agreed between Iran and six major
powers last November that went into effect in January, South
Korea and other Asian buyers can hold to crude imports at the
sanctions-reduced rates reached at the end of 2013.
South Korea imported 275,169 tonnes of Iranian crude last
month, or 65,064 barrels per day (bpd), down 51 percent from
December, also down 66 percent from a year earlier, preliminary
customs data showed on Saturday.
The interim deal reached last November between Iran and six
major powers eases some of the sanctions - including freeing up
some frozen oil payments - in return for curbs to Iran's nuclear
Tehran and the so-called P5+1 group of world powers still
have to negotiate their differences to settle a final deal.
Until then, no big jumps are expected in crude imports by
Iran's top four buyers China, India, Japan and South Korea.
The four importers have been steadily cutting purchases over
the last two years to avoid falling foul of toughened U.S. and
EU sanctions put in place in 2012.
The four Asian buyers together cut oil imports from Iran by
15 percent on the year to an average of 935,862 bpd in 2013,
government and industry data showed.
The interim agreement reached on Nov. 24 of last year allows
the OPEC member to keep exports at the current reduced levels of
about 1 million bpd - less than half of pre-2012 levels - and
opens a door for lifting shipments later.
South Korea won its last U.S. waiver at end-November by
hitting its target of cutting its Iran oil shipments 15 percent
to around 125,000 bpd in the June-November 2013 period over the
previous six months.
South Korea's Iranian crude imports, however, can vary month
on month as one of the two Korean refiners that buys from Iran
receives oil only every other month. SK Energy and Hyundai
Oilbank are the only South Korean refiners that buy Iranian oil
on a regular basis.
Under the agreement, Tehran also won access to $4.2 billion
of its oil revenues frozen abroad by eight money-transfer
schedules through July if it carried out its part of the deal to
curb its nuclear enrichment programme.
Following the first payment by Japan earlier this month,
South Korea and India could become the second and third Asian
nations to make back payments to Iran for crude oil imports,
according to sources earlier this week.
Asia's fourth-largest economy imported a total of 10.6
million tonnes of crude last month, or 2.5 million bpd, compared
with 11 million tonnes in January 2013, according to the customs
Final data for the January crude oil import data will be
available by state-run Korea National Oil Corp later this month.
(Reporting by Meeyoung Cho; Editing by Tom Hogue and Jeremy