South Korea's crude oil imports rose 4.5 percent in the second quarter of 2016 from a year ago due to growing shipments from Iran after sanctions were lifted, while local oil consumption also increased on the back of low prices.
South Korea brought in 266.4 million barrels of crude oil in the second quarter, or 2.93 million barrels per day (bpd), versus 255 million barrels in the same period in 2015, its energy ministry said on Wednesday in a statement.
In the April-June period, Seoul imported 25.35 million barrels of Iranian crude oil, or 278,615 bpd, 123.3 percent above the 11.35 million barrels imported a year earlier when sanctions were imposed on Tehran's disputed nuclear program.
The world's fifth-largest crude importer has continued to buy more crude oil from Iran since sanctions were lifted in January. Shipments of Iranian crude more than doubled to 7.22 million tonnes, or 248,616 bpd, in the January-July period of 2016 from a year earlier, according to its customs office data.
Meanwhile, South Korea's domestic oil consumption increased to 217.1 million barrels, or 2.39 million bpd, in the second quarter, up 7.3 percent from a year earlier thanks to low oil prices, the ministry statement said.
By product type, gasoline and diesel fuel consumption for transportation use grew to 60.86 million barrels in the April-June period, up 6.7 percent from a year earlier, the ministry said.
In the second quarter, South Korea's consumption of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and naphtha also rose 15 percent to 77.01 million barrels as favorable petrochemical market conditions drove up demand for chemical feedstock.
South Korea imported more than half of its LPG from the United States, followed by Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
In terms of exports, Asia's fourth-largest economy mostly sold its oil products to China, Singapore and Australia. In the second quarter of this year, it also exported to Vietnam after a free trade deal between the two countries took effect in December 2015.
The energy ministry did not provide any outlook for the third quarter, but said it would release the country's oil imports, exports and consumption data every quarter.