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Japan shuts 20% refining capacity; Idemitsu to import gasoline, trims exports

   date:2018-10-11     Author:S&P Global Platts    Browse:1    
Core tips:Tokyo — Japanese refiners have shut a combined 692,700 b/d or 20% of their refining capacity due to a combination of sc
Tokyo — Japanese refiners have shut a combined 692,700 b/d or 20% of their refining capacity due to a combination of scheduled and unexpected shutdowns, prompting Idemitsu Kosan to import gasoline and trim refined products exports amid uncertainty over the restart of the Hokkaido refinery.

Japan's operable refining capacity has fallen to about 2.83 million b/d -- below the level of domestic demand at around 3 million b/d -- after JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy and Showa Shell shut a combined 190,200 b/d capacity for scheduled maintenance programs last week.
The country's largest refiner, JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy, has shut a combined 367,700 b/d or 19% of its refining capacity of 1.93 million b/d, following the shutdown of the 90,200 b/d No. 2 crude distillation unit at its 180,200 b/d at Mizushima-B plant in western Japan on October 5.

On October 3, Showa Shell shut the No. 2 100,000 b/d CDU at its Yokkaichi refinery in central Japan for about a month-long scheduled turnaround.

The scheduled shutdowns of JXTG and Showa Shell CDUs increased Japan's refining capacity outage to 692,700 b/d, or 20% of the country's installed refining capacity of 3.519 million b/d over 22 refineries, according to S&P Global Platts calculations.

Meanwhile, Idemitsu Kosan has not said when it will be able to restart its 150,000 b/d Hokkaido refinery -- the only refinery on the northern Japanese island -- following an automatic shutdown as a result of the 6.7 magnitude earthquake that rocked Hokkaido on September 6.

Hokkaido is Japan's largest demand center for kerosene, with heating demand likely to pick up and peak in the coming months for the winter.

For fiscal year 2017-18 (April-March), Hokkaido accounted for roughly 17% of the total ex-refinery/oil terminal kerosene shipments of around 291,864 b/d in Japan, according to the Petroleum Association of Japan data.

Idemitsu now transfers gasoline, kerosene and gasoil to the Hokkaido refinery from its 190,000 b/d Chiba refinery in Tokyo Bay and 160,000 b/d Aichi refinery in central Japan as well as getting supplies from its alliance partner Showa Shell to ensure its supplies, a company spokesman said Tuesday.

The Idemitsu spokesman also said the refiner is trimming its exports of products to ensure domestic supplies amid uncertainty over the Hokkaido refinery restart.

While Idemitsu has not detected any trouble or damage at the Hokkaido refinery, it is still running safety inspections in order to restart the refinery at an early date, the spokesman added, declining to elaborate.

Idemitsu chartered a Medium Range tanker, the Yayoi Express, for a South Korea to Japan voyage, loading 35,000 mt of gasoline over October 11, according to a source close to the matter.

Idemitsu is also importing some unspecified products from its leased storage in South Korea to its Hokkaido refinery, the spokesman said, without elaborating.

Traditionally Japan rarely imports gasoline as demand is typically met by domestic production but the country has hiked imports of the light distillate continuously this year against 2017 levels.

Japan's gasoline imports doubled to 54,831 b/d in August from 27,402 b/d in the same month of 2017, and the country's gasoline imports over January-August averaged 34,643 b/d, up 141% from a year ago, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry data. Asian gasoil traders have previously said that gasoil production volumes from Japan could undergo declines over the coming months, as domestic refiners gradually switch to maximizing jet/kerosene fuel for the peak winter demand period. This, combined with the recent news of refinery outages in Japan, could mean even tighter regional gasoil balances ahead for the middle distillate as it heads into Q4, a seasonally strong period for the product.

The Asian gasoil market has been experiencing strong upward momentum since August, driven primarily by restricted supply availabilities from Japan, South Korea and China, which have come even as regional demand has been robust.

In early October, the outright price of 10 ppm sulfur gasoil cargoes for loading from Singapore pushed through the psychologically important $100/b mark for the first time in nearly four years, fueled by a rally in crude as well as strong demand for gasoil. This was borne out by a firming gasoil/Dubai crack, which reflected the relative strength in the market.

While the momentum in the Asian gasoil market appeared to slow down towards the end of last week, traders attributed the ease back to the market going through a period of normalization following the strong run-up in values, and said they believed that the Asian gasoil complex remained fundamentally strong moving forward into Q4.

At the Asian close Monday, the cash differential for FOB Singapore 10 ppm sulfur gasoil was assessed at plus 65 cents/b to MOPS Gasoil assessments, up 8 cents/b from Friday, while the front-month November/December gasoil timespread was up 5 cents/b to plus 63 cents/b.
label: Chemical News

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