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Crude oil imports to South Korea went up by 4.9 percent on the year in the first quarter of 2017, to 278.18 million barrels. The main driver behind the increase was a 104.5-percent jump in imports from Iran, to 18.54 million barrels. This made Iran the second-largest exporter of crude to Korea, behind Saudi Arabia.
One of the biggest oil consumers in Asia benefited from stable oil prices in the $50-55 range in the three-month period, exporting 8.7 percent more refined oil products in the quarter, or 126.9 million barrels. The main markets for the products were Asia and the United States, with oil product exports to China up 2.6 percent to 22.5 million barrels in January through March 2017.
Oil product imports fell by 4.2 percent to 78 million barrels.
Overall oil product consumption in South Korea is seen to rise by 2.2 percent this year, a substantial decline from 7.6 percent a year ago on higher prices and a slowdown in the growth of the national economy. Yet last year’s consumption increase, to 921.5 million barrels, was unusual and a result of the oil price crash.
Yet the country remains one of the top ten oil consumers in the world. As of 2015, it ranked eighth, with average daily consumption of 2.4 million barrels, according to the Energy Information Administration. Last year, preliminary data suggest consumption rose by 160,000 bpd on the back of low international prices and an increase in local refining capacity.
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As of the same year, crude oil accounted for 41 percent of South Korea’s energy mix, with a lot of this coming from imports. At the time, Saudi Arabia supplied almost a third of what Korea consumed and Iran only had a 4-percent share in imports.
South Korea is also one of the largest oil product exporters in Asia and home to three of the 10 biggest refineries in the world. In 2015, the country exported an average daily of 1.3 million barrels of oil products.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.