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Easing COVID-19 emergency restrictions to boost summer gasoline demand in Japan

June 18/2021

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Japan's easing of COVID-19 emergency restrictions will boost the gasoline demand in July, when the country kickstarts the summer driving season, but the expected transport restriction for the Tokyo Olympics sent mixed signals for the fuel demand, reported S&P Global.

Japan decided June 17 it will lift its state of emergency measures on nine out of 10 prefectures when it expires on June 20 but will place Hokkaido, Tokyo, Aichi, Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto and Fukuoka under its COVID-19 priority measures, together with Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa until July 11.

The state of emergency measures on Okinawa will remain until July 11 but the state of emergency on Okayama and Hiroshima will be lifted on June 20. The priority measures on Gifu and Mie will also be lifted. This means 56% of Japan's population will be under the priority measure, with the state of emergency on Okinawa, accounting for 1% of the population.

"With the easing of state of emergency measures, we expect to see sequential improvement of gasoline demand over the next couple of months," said JY Lim, oil markets adviser at S&P Global Platts Analytics.

"The summer Olympics will also provide some support, but impact will likely not be significant due to the restriction on non-athlete attendees. Overall, we expect to see gasoline growing by 2.5% this year, but still down by 5.7% when compared to pre-COVID levels," Lim said.

Japan's gasoline demand is expected to recover in July on the back of gradual improvement in the pandemic situation and an increase in personal mobility due to the Olympics, among other factors, Petroleum Association of Japan President Tsutomu Sugimori said June 16.

Japan's gasoline demand is estimated to have fallen by 5% year on year in June and down 9% from June 2019 after marking a 14% year-on-year jump in May, when it was down 12% from the same month two years ago, according to Sugimori, who is also chairman of Eneos Holdings, the parent of largest Japanese refiner Eneos.

Japanese refiners and market sources surveyed by S&P Global Platts said June 17 that Japan's July gasoline demand will mark a month-on-month increase and is expected to be between flat year on year to rising 3% from a year ago, taking into account the coronavirus pandemic and the Olympics situation.

Although Japan's gasoline demand is expected to increase in July due to easing COVID-19 emergency measures and the start of the Olympics, regional industry sources expect the impact to be minimal amid bearish fundamentals.

Japan's refinery outage will also soon drop to 685,000 b/d, or 19.8% of the total installed capacity when ENEOS restarts its sole 141,000 b/d crude distillation unit at the Sakai refinery in western Japan in late June, according to Platts calculations.

As MRC wrote previously, ENEOS (formerly JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy) restarted its Sendai refinery in northeast Japanon 18 May, 2021. This  refinery was hit by an earthquake on 1 May, 2021. Besides, on 18 May, the company shut down its Sakai refinery in western Japan for maintenance.

We remind that ENEOS Corporation restarted its naphtha cracker in Kawasaki on 1 February 2021. The company shut this cracker with an annual capacity of 515,000 tons/year of ethylene, 300,000 tons/year of propylene, and 105,000 tons/year of butadiene on 4 December, 2020, for repairment after a technical issue reported at the butadiene separation unit and initially planned to resume operations on 28 December, 2020.

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 744,130 tonnes in the first four month of 2021, up by 4% year on year. Shipments of all PE grades increased. At the same time, PP deliveries to the Russian market were 523,900 tonnes in January-April 2021, up by 55% year on year. Supply of homopolymer PP and PP block copolymers increased, whereas shipments of PP random copolymers decreased.
Author:Margaret Volkova
Tags:PP, PE, crude and gaz condensate, propylene, petrochemistry, Eneos, Nippon, Japan.
Category:General News
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