South Korea's crude oil imports fell 0.9% year on year in September, marking the first decline in almost a year.
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The country imported 76.1 million barrels of crude oil in September, down from 76.8 million barrels a year earlier, preliminary data from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy showed Thursday.
It was the first year-on-year decline in South Korea's monthly crude imports since October last year, when imports dipped 5.8% from a year earlier.
The September volume was also down 14.2% from the 88.7 million barrels imported in August, and was the smallest monthly volume since 74.5 million barrels was imported in October last year.
The cost of South Korea's imports fell 50.8% year on year to $3.87 billion in September from $7.86 billion a year earlier, and was also down from $4.85 billion in August, according to the MOTIE data.
The country paid an average $50.9/b in September, down from $102/b a year earlier and $54.7/b in August.
The country's crude oil imports had been on the rise since August last year when international crude oil prices showed significant declines.
South Korea's crude imports for the first nine months of the year were estimated at 758.24 million barrels, up 10% from 689.26 million barrels a year earlier, according to calculations based on data from state-run Korea National Oil Corp. or KNOC.
A MOTIE official attributed to the decline in crude oil imports in September to rising crude oil stocks as a result of the local refiners' buying spree over the past year.
AUG CRUDE STOCKS RISE 9.3% ON YEAR
The country's commercial crude oil stocks rose 9.3% to 32.23 million barrels at end August from 29.48 million barrels a year earlier, latest KNOC data showed.
The country's commercial crude oil stocks, which averaged at 19.09 million barrels in 2013 and 25.49 million barrels in 2014, jumped to record 35.79 million barrels in May and remained high in August despite higher crude runs by refiners.
Local refiners' combined stocks of oil products hit a record 55.02 million barrels in July, then declined to 52.26 million barrels in August due to the strong exports and solid local demand. But stocks are still higher than the 52.09 million barrels recorded at end August last year, KNOC data showed.
South Korean refineries processed 678.22 million barrels of crude over January-August, up 12.4% from 603.31 million barrels processed in the same period of last year.
South Korea's final oil trade data for August will be released late this month by KNOC.