May 21, 2012 / 10:39 AM / in 7 years

Exclusive: SK Energy to stop Iran oil imports from July: sources

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea’s largest oil refiner SK Energy (096770.KS) will stop Iranian crude imports after a European Union insurance ban takes effect on July 1, two sources said, effectively making it the first of Tehran’s major Asian oil buyers to halt purchases.

The only other refiner that buys Iranian oil, Hyundai Oil Bank, will stop imports from June, industry sources said last month.

“SK Energy won’t lift Iranian crude oil after lifting a 2 million barrel cargo in early June,” one of the two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters by phone.

“SK Energy will not import Iranian oil for July arrival.”

A second source confirmed that imports would cease in July.

SK Energy had contracts to import 130,000 barrels per day (bpd) from Iran under term deals for this year. Refiner Hyundai Oilbank, which imports 70,000 bpd from Iran, will stop purchases from June, industry sources said.

Both sources declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the media on a topic the Korean government considers politically sensitive.

SK Energy, which is wholly owned by parent SK Innovations (096770.KS), declined to comment.

South Korea has four oil refiners, but only two import Iranian crude oil.

The sanctions are part of package pushed by Washington which says Iran is using its petrodollars to bankroll its nuclear weapons program.

Iran exports most of its 2.2 million barrels of oil per day to Asia. The four main buyers are China, India, Japan and South Korea.

South Korea’s government has shied away from making any official comments on the issue. The United States is its main guarantor of security against North Korea, which has a nuclear weapons program.

However, the government in Seoul is believed to be taking actions to limit exports to Iran, fearing that funds held in accounts here from the sales of Iranian crude could dry up.

Reporting by Meeyoung Cho and Jumin Park; editing by Miral Fahmy and David Chance

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