It has been found that South Korea imported 837.391 million barrels of crude oil from the Middle East for the first 11 months of last year. During the period, the country imported 1,018.316 million barrels of crude oil in total and the ratio of crude oil imports from the Middle East amounted to 82.2%.
The ratio exceeded 80% each month for the first nine months of 2017. However, the ratio fell to 74.6% in October and to a 10-year low of 72.9% in November. During the same period, South Korea’s crude oil imports from the Middle East stood at 69.4 million and 69.01 million barrels, respectively. For reference, the volume amounted to 80 million barrels in July last year.
South Korea’s crude oil imports from Saudi Arabia accounted for 29.8% and 30.1% of the country’s total crude oil imports in 2015 and 2016, respectively. However, the ratio fell to 28.4% for the first 11 months of 2017, 21.3% in October 2017 and 25.5% in the following month.
This is because the Dubai crude oil price is on the rise after the OPEC and non-Middle East oil exporters such as Russia agreed to cut oil production until the end of this year in November last year. The Dubai crude oil price rose from approximately US$53 per barrel to over US$61 per barrel between January and December 2017 while the WTI price rose from US$52 to US$57 per barrel.
South Korea’s crude oil imports from the United States showed a significant increase last year. Specifically, the volume reached 11.36 million barrels and US$610.32 million in November. This trend is being led by GS Caltex and SK Innovation. Hyundai Oil Bank imported two million barrels from the U.S. in the first half of 2017, too. “Unlike S-Oil, which is owned by Aramco of Saudi Arabia, the three companies are trying to diversify import sources to deal with a rise in the price of crude oil from the Middle East and the instability on the supply side,” said an industry source, adding, “They are currently focusing on not only the United States but also Kazakhstan, Russia, Mexico and Africa.”