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Iranian LPG shipments to China decline in Nov on sanctions, maintenance: trade

Singapore — Iranian LPG shipments bound for China have fallen by up to half in November from around 12 cargoes in June due to US sanctions and plant maintenance, trade sources said Thursday.

Trader estimates for cargoes loading from Iran bound for China in November generally ranged between seven and 10. Some said the number was lower at six to seven, while one source said it did not exceed nine.

Sources estimated that Iran loaded 10 cargoes for export in October. Iranian LPG cargoes are typically 44,000 mt, and a mix of propane and butane.

In addition to the US sanctions in force since November 4 last year, market sources said the decline may be due to technical hitches and regular maintenance shutdowns at Iranian refineries.

Partial maintenance is ongoing or scheduled for the current quarter and in 2020 at Bandar Abbas, Tehran, Imam Khomeini, Isfahan and Lavan refineries.

Operations at Abadan refinery in southern Iran were not impacted by a small fire in its oil waste directing unit on October 27, the Iranian oil ministry's news service Shana reported. The refinery, Iran's oldest, is currently under expansion and upgrade, according to the report.

Tehran refinery began an overhaul in mid-October to improve safety at refining units and conduct repairs at atmospheric distillation units, Shana reported. The northern part of the 250,000 b/d refinery was shut for 31 working days to complete the works, after all the refinery's northern and some southern units were taken out of service for eight days from October 18 to fix connectivity issues and adjust the flare route, Shana reported.

LPG loadings from Iran hit 568,000 mt in October 2018, the highest since previous Western sanctions over its nuclear plan were lifted in January 2016, and have been declining steadily since then, fixtures from shipping sources showed.

CHINA TARIFFS HALT US INFLOWS

China's tariffs on US LPG imports have halted its inflows from the US, prompting Chinese buyers to turn to more expensive cargoes from major Middle East producers, including sanctioned Iranian supply sold at discounted prices.

US cargoes are being diverted from China to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia and, in recent months, to India, traders said.

The fall in Asian LPG prices to near one-month lows this week has been attributed to abundant US LPG supply flowing into Asia, with traders estimating 2.5 million mt is set to arrive in November and 2.5 million-2.6 million mt is December.

Platts assessed H1 December CFR Japan physical propane at $434/mt Wednesday, the lowest since October 16, and CFR Japan physical butane at $446/mt, the lowest since October 7.

--Ramthan Hussain, mohd.ramthan.hussain@spglobal.com

--Edited by Wendy Wells, wendy.wells@spglobal.com