South Korea's large buys on U.S. oil, fuel to maintain bilateral ties sturdy

SEOUL/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – South Korea’s purchases of U.S. oil and fuel this 12 months will maintain to the fast tempo set in 2018, doubtless narrowing its commerce surplus with the world’s high economic system additional and bolstering its ties to Washington.

FILE PHOTO: An worker holds a fuel pump to refill a automotive at a petroleum station in central Seoul April 6, 2011. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Gained

South Korea is predicted in January and February to import not less than 18 million barrels of crude oil and 900,000 tonnes of liquefied pure fuel (LNG) from the US, in line with commerce circulate information from Refinitiv Eikon.

That’s a four-fold enhance on oil from a 12 months earlier and a slight drop on LNG, indicating the file U.S. crude and LNG volumes heading into South Korea in 2018 are set to proceed, supported by beneficial market circumstances led to by rising oil and fuel output in the US.

The leap in South Korea’s U.S. oil and fuel imports comes as U.S. President Donald Trump continues to push to cut back commerce deficits with the US’ main buying and selling companions by promoting extra to them than it buys. U.S. oil and LNG exports are a key a part of this technique.

“In the intervening time, the pattern (of importing U.S. crude) will keep … The economics for U.S. crude is a little bit bit higher than Center East and North Sea oil,” stated a South Korean refining supply who declined to be named on account of firm coverage.

Report U.S. crude oil and LNG volumes flowed into South Korea in 2018, whereas provides from the Center East have been tightened amid OPEC-led output cuts and a re-imposition of U.S. sanctions on Iran.

U.S. crude, LNG shipments to South Korea :

America was South Korea’s sixth-biggest crude provider final 12 months, its highest rating ever because it overtook Iran and Russia. It additionally turned South Korea’s third-largest LNG provider, whereas South Korea was the highest importer of U.S. LNG. 

South Korea’s U.S. oil and fuel imports greater than quadrupled in worth to $6.75 billion in 2018 from $1.5 billion in 2017, in line with the nation’s customs information.

The U.S. oil import worth of $4.5 billion alone was greater than six occasions the $725 million taken in U.S. oil in 2017.

“Shopping for extra U.S. oil and fuel was a part of (Seoul’s) technique as our broad commerce surplus towards the US was grounds for revising the Korea-U.S. free commerce deal,” stated Je Hyun-jung, director on the Korea Worldwide Commerce Affiliation.

South Korea’s 2018 commerce surplus with the US at $13.86 billion was the bottom since 2011, down 22.Four % from $17.86 billion a 12 months earlier, the customs information confirmed.

In 2017, Trump threatened to renegotiate or scrap what he known as a “horrible” bilateral commerce deal that had doubled the U.S. commerce deficit with South Korea since 2012.

The 2 international locations agreed to revise the deal final 12 months, with Seoul capping its metal exports to the US to keep away from hefty tariffs and giving larger market entry to U.S. carmakers. The revision took impact on Jan. 1.

Tilak Doshi, a Singapore-based analyst at consultancy Muse, Stancil & Co, stated bettering commerce ties between South Korea and the US will even help their shared aim of North Korea’s denuclearisation.

“Any assist from the US concerning North Korea is vital, so good commerce relations will assist. It additionally helps South Koreans to guard their exports to the US by pointing to their (U.S.) power imports,” Doshi stated.

South Korea’s commerce surplus with the US :


South Korea imports almost all of its power. It’s the world’s fifth-largest crude and third-largest LNG importer, usually taking 80 % of its oil and greater than 40 % of its LNG from the Center East.

In 2018, as U.S. oil flows grew, although, the Center East’s share of South Korean crude imports dropped to 73.5 %, the bottom since 2002.

Whereas it’s not sure freight rebates for non-Center East crude imports – a part of South Korea’s diversification push – will proceed, larger U.S. crude output and wider reductions for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) will make U.S. oil enticing to South Korean consumers searching for cheaper sources exterior their conventional suppliers.

GS Caltex, South Korea’s No.2 refiner, purchased 10 million barrels of U.S. crude, primarily WTI Midland and Mars, for arrival over January-February, stated an organization spokesman, as U.S. oil has turned extra worth aggressive.

South Korea’s hunt for condensate to exchange Iranian provides can also be anticipated to accentuate later this 12 months as waivers from U.S. sanctions begin to expire in Might.

South Korea buys U.S. oil totally on a spot foundation. It buys U.S. LNG totally on a long-term foundation through a 20-year time period contract that state-run Korea Fuel Corp (KOGAS) has with Cheniere.

Two South Korean non-public energy corporations – GS EPS and SK E&S – are additionally set to take U.S. LNG from 2019 and 2020, respectively, underneath their very own 20-year contracts with Cameron LNG and Freeport LNG.

U.S. LNG’s share of South Korea’s power combine will develop because the Asian importer switches away from nuclear and coal to renewables and LNG for energy, stated Tim Boersma, director of International Pure Fuel Markets at Columbia College’s Heart on International Vitality Coverage.

“The Korean determination to place extra emphasis on LNG as a gasoline of its future could properly proceed, given the rising function of U.S. corporations on this market,” Boersma stated.

Reporting By Jane Chung in SEOUL and Florence Tan in SINGAPORE; Modifying by Tom Hogue

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