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JAPAN DATA: Crude imports hit 54-year low on pandemic, non-Mideast oil squeezed out

Japan’s crude imports plunged 31% year on year to 1.91 million b/d in June, the lowest for the month in 54 years, as refiners slashed their crude throughput because of the plunge in domestic oil-product demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

June crude imports, which were the lowest for the month since 1966, also dropped 16.3% from May as refiners cut their crude throughput by 28% year on year to 2.08 million b/d, according to preliminary data released July 31 by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Japanese refiners and other importers, however, boosted imports of key refined products such as gasoline and gasoil in June on signs of a recovery in demand since the lifting of the state of emergency on May 25.

Japan was a net importer of gasoline for the third consecutive month in June due to low refinery run rates combined with the month-on-month recovery in domestic motor fuel sales.

Japan imported an average of 76,508 b/d of gasoline in June, more than double the 36,607 b/d a year earlier and up 44.1% from May.

The growth in imports came as domestic gasoline sales surged 24.4% month on month to 782,213 b/d in June, but the year-on-year fall of 4.5% was less than the 7% expected by Tsutomu Sugimori, president of the Petroleum Association of Japan and chairman of ENEOS Holdings.

Lowest product sales in decades

June gasoline sales were the lowest for the month since June 1991’s 763,020 b/d, according to METI data.

Gasoil imports also surged 66.3% year on year and 41.8% month on month to 21,822 b/d in June when the middle distillate sales grew 9.8% month on month to 537,301 b/d. June product sales, however, slid 8.3% from a year earlier and were the lowest for the month since 1987.

Japanese refiners are keeping their refinery runs low and raising product imports as consumption recovers because of plummeting demand for jet fuel despite a month-on-month rebound in domestic aviation fuel demand.

Domestic jet fuel sales plunged 48.6% year on year to 49,228 b/d in June, the lowest for the month since 1986, although they were more than double May’s 20,434 b/d.

Non-Mideast crudes squeezed out

In June, Japan’s crude imports from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, its top two suppliers, dropped 18.1% and 30.3% year on year to 761,316 b/d and 671,217 b/d but their combined supply accounted for 74.9% of total imports, given sharp drops in imports from outside the Middle East.

The significant reduction in non-Middle Eastern crude imports in June helped boost Japan’s share of crude oil imports from the Middle East to 95.2%, the highest since records began in 1950.

Crude imports from Kuwait, the third largest supplier, slid 1.9% from June 2019 to 211,662 b/d, with Qatari crude imports dropping 34.2% to 158,865 b/d.

Vietnam became the fifth largest crude supplier in June, when Japan raised imports by 22% year on year to 29,869 b/d, while Russian crude imports plummeted 71.7% to 24,609 b/d.

Source: Platts

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