September 22, 2017 / 12:23 PM / 3 months ago

Iran condensate exports to hit 5-month low in October: source

TOKYO/SEOUL (Reuters) - Iranian exports of ultra-light crude oil known as condensate are set to fall to a five-month low in October, with supplies to its largest buyer South Korea cut by half, a source with knowledge of Iran’s preliminary tanker schedule said on Friday.

That comes after six industry sources said on Tuesday that the National Iranian Oil Co has informed buyers in Asia that it could reduce condensate exports in October due to maintenance at the South Pars gas field.

Iran plans to load about 295,000 barrels per day (bpd) of condensate for exports in October, down 31 percent from an estimated 429,000 bpd this month, said the source, who declined to be identified as he was not authorized to speak to media.

The expected drop in Iranian supplies has already boosted premiums for similar oil from Qatar to the highest in 10 months, while driving up prices for condensate produced in the Asia-Pacific such as Malaysia’s Muda.

Iranian condensate exports to South Korea will fall by half from the month before to about 153,000 bpd in October, the source said. Supply cuts to South Korea are expected to continue in November, a second source with knowledge of the matter said.

NIOC could not be reached for comment.

South Korean buyers SK Energy, Hyundai Oilbank [INPTVH.UL]and Hanwha Total Petrochemical [SMCHE.UL] were notified about the supply cuts early and have since found replacements, people familiar with the matter said.

“We are monitoring the situation to check how long this will last,” said Kim Woo-kyung, a spokeswoman at SK Innovation, owner of South Korea’s top refiner SK Energy.

Meanwhile, other regular buyers, the United Arab Emirates and Japan, are expected to lift about 110,000 bpd and 14,000 bpd in October respectively, steady from the previous month.

China will resume Iranian condensate imports in October, after a two-month halt, loading about 17,000 bpd, the first source added.

Shipments of the ultra-light oil from Iran have eased since reaching a post-sanctions high of 601,000 bpd in February this year, more than double the level from January 2016 when Western sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear program were lifted.

Iran has struggled to expand oil exports after it sold all the oil it had stored for years at sea earlier this year.

Iran, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, does not publish monthly data on its condensate and crude exports.

OPEC and other producers are set to meet in Vienna on Friday to discuss whether they will extend production limits that have helped reduce a global crude glut.

Editing by Florence Tan and Joseph Radford

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