South Korean base oil exports rose 3 percent to 4.7 million tons in 2018, according to data released by the Korea Customs Service. That oil was valued at U.S. $3.8 billion.
China, India and the United States were the main destinations. Export volume to China rose 1.4 percent to 1 million tons. That accounted for 21 percent of total base oil exports and was valued at $784 million.
Sales to India has increased 8.4 percent to 939,279 tons, accounting for 20 percent of the total. But volume shipped to the U.S. dropped 2.1 percent to 680,259 tons, or 14.6 percent of the total.
Those destinations were followed by Japan (373,399 tons), Singapore (313,828 tons), Thailand (256,124 tons), Belgium (169,335 tons), the Netherlands (133,006 tons), Indonesia (131,258 tons) and Vietnam (110,293 tons).
Average export value per ton reached $807.20 in 2018, up 12.9 percent from $714.70.
Meanwhile, the country's base oil import volume decreased 3.5 percent to 436,728 tons from 452,336 tons. Nearly half came from Indonesia.
Among finished lubricants, the export volume of car engine oil, automatic transmission fluid and gear oil declined in 2018. Overseas sales of automotive engine oil dropped less than 1 percent to 186,341 tons, valued at $340 million. It was impacted by the nearly 30 percent fall in export volumes to China last year. Pakistan became the top buyer of Korean engine oil, importing 33,037 tons, followed by China (28,267 tons), Russia (26,488 tons) and Vietnam (11,565 tons).
South Koreas imports of passenger car engine oil grew 7.4 percent to 11,896 tons, valued at $39.7 million. The largest portion of that volume, 21 percent, came from Germany, driven by increasing sales of luxury imported cars in Korea.
Automatic transmission fluid export volume declined 32 percent to 14,701 tons, valued at $30.7 million). Gear oil exports slipped 0.8 percent to 15,417 tons, valued at $36 million. Cargoes of auto transmission fluid and gear oil mostly head to China and Russia.