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Highlights

Iranian crude imports rise for fourth consecutive month in Aug

Receives crude cargo from Yemen for first time since 2015

JXTG eyes Yemeni Masila crude

Singapore — Japan's crude oil imports from Iran jumped 65% year on year in August, marking the fourth consecutive month of increase, according to government trade data released Thursday.

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This signals domestic refiners' efforts to take as many cargoes as possible before US sanctions against Iran come into effect in November.

The 65% rise lifted Japan's imports of Iranian crude oil to 177,475 b/d in August, contributing to the 5.9% year on year rise in overall crude imports to 3.39 million b/d in the month, preliminary data from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry showed.

Japan's top crude oil suppliers

Imports of Iranian crude in August edged down 3.3% from July, but the Persian Gulf producer was the fifth-largest supplier to Japan in the month, accounting for 5.2% of the total volume, according to METI data.

METI publishes its data in kiloliters, which S&P Global Platts converts to barrels.

Japan's oil imports from Iran have surged since May as domestic refiners rushed to secure as many cargoes as possible before US sanctions return.

Accordingly, Japan's crude oil imports from Iran over January-August averaged 166,890 b/d, up 4.8% from a year earlier.

Japanese refiners have urged the government to seek a waiver from the US as they are keen to continue importing usual volumes of Iranian crude.

Japan remains firmly committed to seeking US exemption for Iranian oil imports as it sees the supply as important for the country's energy security and business, Ryo Minami, METI's director-general of oil, gas and mineral resources, told S&P Global Platts previously.

US President Donald Trump said on May 8 that the US would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and re-impose sanctions that have been frozen since January 2016 as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

YEMENI CRUDE

Latest METI data also showed that Japan received 520,000 barrels of medium sour Shabwa crude in August, marking the country's first import from Yemen in three years.

Japan last imported 233,723 barrels of Masila crude from Yemen in 2015, according to METI data.

Yemen-Japan oil flows may become more common going forward with JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy showing interest in Masila crude as part of the company's efforts to expand its supply sources. JXTG had been looking at procuring Masila as it had bought the crude occasionally in the past, market sources said.

The Yemeni government has completed repairs to a key crude export pipeline, allowing it to ship its first cargo in three years from the Bir Ali terminal on the Gulf of Aden on July 29.

The Saudi-backed government had been pushing international oil companies for months to restart production from the central Marib and Shabwa basins, its key oil-producing regions.

Production from Shabwa Basin began in April after being shut for more than three years due to the war between Yemen's Houthi militants and the Saudi-led coalition, which imposed a blockade on Yemeni ports preventing exports and shutting in production.

-- Takeo Kumagai, takeo.kumagai@spglobal.com

-- Gawoon Philip Vahn, Philip.Vahn@spglobal.com

-- Edited by E Shailaja Nair, newsdesk@spglobal.com