South Korea’s crude oil imports in March plunged 2.1% from a year before, weighed down by weaker demand due to the coronavirus pandemic, customs data confirmed Wednesday.
South Korea, the world’s fifth-largest crude importer, received 11.30 million tonnes of crude oil in March (2.67 million barrels per day), in contrast with 11.54 million tonnes a year ago, in response to the data.
The drop in South Korea’s crude oil imports comes as demand for oil products has plunged because of the coronavirus pandemic, with the nation’s top refiner SK Energy decreasing its crude run rates by 10%-15% in March.
Of South Korea’s total imports, crude deliveries from its top provider Saudi Arabia leaped 27.3% yearly to 3.40 million tonnes, or 804,304 BPD, in March on the back of a decrease official selling price for Saudi Arabia’s Arab Light grade for Asian customers.
U.S. crude imports had been 1.68 million tonnes in March, or 397,951 BPD, up 60.5% from 1.05 million tonnes a year ago, based on the data.
South Korea has sharply increased U.S. crude oil imports following the end of U.S. penalty waivers in May 2019, which had allowed South Korea to buy Iranian crude oil, mainly condensate, or an ultra-gentle form of crude oil.
In Q1 of this year, U.S. crude imports elevated 31.4% annually to 4.99 million tonnes (402,140 BPD) in accordance with the data.