Korean Base Oil Exports Dipped in 2020


Korean Base Oil Exports Dipped in 2020
Hyundai Shell Base Oil, the 60-40 joint venture between Hyundai Oilbank and Shell, has 25,000 b/d of API Group II base oil production capacity at its plant in Daesan, South Korea. Photo courtesy of Hyundai Shell Base Oil

Base oil exports from South Korea dropped 9% in 2020, according to data published by the Korea Customs Service, due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The sum declared value of those exports was 24% lower than in 2019.

Volumes and revenues were also down in December, though by smaller percentages, suggesting the industry was continuing to rebound.

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Exports for all of 2020 totaled 4.3 million metric tons, compared to 4.7 million tons in 2019. The value of the 2020 exports was reported at U.S. $2.5 billion, down from the $3.3 billion mark reached in 2019.

The country exported 364,487 metric tons of base oil in December 2020, down 4% from 381,326 tons in December 2019.  The value of those exports was $246.2 million last December, 9% lower year to year.

South Korea is one of the world’s largest base oil exporters, sending most of the volume that it produces to markets around the world, normally to generate healthy profits for the nations’ refiners. Those include SK LubricantsS-OilGS Caltex and Hyundai Shell Base Oil.

During the pandemic period last year, the country’s lowest base oil export volume was 247,102 tons in May, down 39% year to year. The highest export volume during the pandemic, 397,573 tons, occurred in June, up 15% from the same month in 2019.

The country’s lowest monthly value also occurred in May, when exports were declared to worth $113.5 million, which was 61% below the $290.4 million declared in May 2019. The highest monthly value during the pandemic was $247.1 million in March 2020, which was 11% higher than $223 million in the year-earlier period.

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