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S Korea crude imports poised for Q2 rebound on OPEC output, fuel demand recovery
4/29/2021 12:00:00 AM

South Korea's crude imports fell for the sixth consecutive month in March as refiners maintained modest run rates, but Asia's fourth biggest oil consumer is poised to raise refinery feedstock purchases from late second quarter as transportation fuel demand improves following the rollout of the nationwide vaccination program, while OPEC plans to release more supply from May.

South Korea imported 71.916 million barrels, or 2.32 million b/d, of crude oil in March, down 14.5% from 86.304 million barrels a year earlier, latest data from state-run Korea National Oil Corp. showed. For the first three months, crude imports fell 15% on the year to 223.764 million barrels.
Major South Korean refiners were cautious not to abruptly raise refinery utilization rates as the companies constantly fret over potential accumulation in unwanted refined product stocks at a time when consumer and industrial fuel demand remains highly volatile and unpredictable, said a market research analyst at Korea Petroleum Association.
South Korea's third-biggest refiner S-Oil Corp. said its average run rate in the first quarter was 94.4%, a tad higher than 93.4% a year earlier, but sharply lower than the 100.8% averaged in the fourth quarter of 2020.
In addition, a sharp uptrend in Middle East crude official selling prices and strong production curb commitment displayed by OPEC+ alliance saw local refiners cutting back on Persian Gulf crude procurement volumes.
Crude imports from top supplier Saudi Arabia in March fell 24% from a year earlier and down 20.4% on the month at 19.06 million barrels, KNOC data showed. Shipments from other major Middle Eastern producers including Kuwait and Iraq also fell in March, down 12.1% and 57.9%, respectively, from a year earlier.
Source: SP Global