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October crude imports to South Korea rise by 2%

November 25/2021

MOSCOW (MRC) -- South Korea's crude oil imports in October rose 1.9% from a year earlier, reflecting the country's rising refinery run rates as Seoul rapidly eases COVID-19 restrictions, while major refiners plan to actively purchase spot cargoes from non-OPEC producers amid tight Middle Eastern supply, reported S&P Global.

The world's fifth-biggest crude importer received 11.419 million mt, or 83.7 million barrels, of crude oil last month, compared with 82.14 million barrels imported a year earlier, data from the Korea Customs Service showed. The October imports were also up 6.4% from 78.63 million barrels received in September.

The country's crude imports are on course to a full recovery to levels seen before the outbreak of the pandemic as major refiners raise run rates to lift transportation fuel production amid easing domestic and international movement restrictions with the government's call to shift to a phase of living with COVID-19 from Nov. 9, refinery and industry sources told S&P Global Platts.

South Korea's top refiner SK Innovation raised its average crude throughput to 68% in the third quarter, from 66% in Q2 and 63% in Q1, while the country's second-biggest refiner GS Caltex raised its average refinery run rate to 92% in Q3 from 88% in Q2 and 83% in Q1.

No. 3 refiner S-Oil Corp. also boosted its run rate to average 99.2% in Q3, compared with 90.7% a year earlier, 98.8% in Q2 and 94.4% in Q1.

South Korea's crude imports are likely to continue to rise during Q4 as Seoul's decision to phase out coronavirus restrictions and guide the nation back to normal life encouraged the major refiners to further boost their run rates and middle distillate fuel output.

The country's nationwide run rates were estimated to have averaged around 81% in the first 10 months, lower than the average 84% during the same period in 2020, according to latest data from Korea Petroleum Association and industry information collected from major refiners by S&P Global.

As MRC informed before, South Korea's SK Innovation Co Ltd said in August, 2021, it is considering spinning off and listing its growing battery business, taking a page out of rival LG Chem Ltd's playbook that is on track to list its battery unit this year. The move, announced by SK Innovation CEO Kim Jun earlier this year, comes as demand for electric vehicles (EVs) surges and carmakers partner with battery makers to ensure uninterrupted supplies.

We remind that in July 2021, SK Innovation Co Ltd said refining margins were likely to gradually improve in the second quarter due to recovering demand as the impact of COVID-19 eases.

Ethylene and propylene are the main feedstocks for the production of polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), respectively.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 1,868,160 tonnes in the first nine months of 2021, up by 18% year on year. Shipments of all grades of ethylene polymers increased. At the same time, PP shipments to the Russian market were 1,138,510 tonnes in January-September 2021, up by 30% year on year. Supply of propylene homopolymer (homopolymer PP) and block-copolymers of propylene (PP block copolymers) increased, whereas supply of injection moulding statistical copolymers of propylene (PP random copolymers) decreased significantly.
Author:Margaret Volkova
Tags:crude and gaz condensate, batteries, petrochemistry, GS Caltex, LG Chem, SK Corporation, South Korea.
Category:General News
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