Although South Korea exported a smaller volume of base oils in June, compared to the same month last year, the declared export value more than doubled, reflecting a continued trend in higher base oil prices.
South Korea exported 384,101 metric tons of base oils in June, a 3% decline from 397,573 tons in the same month last year, according to data released this week by the Korea Customs Service. The export volume was up 11% from June 2019. Sequentially, the June 2021 export volume was up 20% from 321,141 tons in May. The export volume peaked this year at 425,705 tons in April.
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The base oil volume exported over the first half of this year grew 7% to 2.2 million tons, compared to the same period in 2020. The volume exported during the first six months of this year was down 5% from 2.4 million tons in the same period in 2019.
The declared value of base oil exported by South Korea in June grew by 118% to $388.8 million, compared with $178.3 million in the same month in 2020. Sequentially, the value was up 21% from $321.1 million in May. It was also 63% higher than $238.7 million in June 2019.
During the first half of this year, the declared value increased 62% to $2 billion, rising from $1.2 billion in the same period in 2020, and it was also up 22% from $1.6 billion in the first half of 2019.
South Korea is one of the world’s largest base oil exporters, sending most of its volume to markets around the world to generate healthy profits for the nation’s refiners. Those include SK Lubricants, S-Oil, GS Caltex and Hyundai Shell Base Oil. S-Oil and Hyundai Shell Base Oil noted in their recent quarterly earnings presentations that the price spreads between base oil and high-sulfur fuel were exceptionally high during the second quarter, as a result of low operating rates due to weak refining margins and turnarounds at some base oil plants tightening supply.
The country imported 22,736 tons in June, down 28% from 31,439 tons in June 2020. That represented the lowest amount imported since 17,605 tons in December 2020.