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Korea Imports Gas For The First Time In Three Years

Gasoline exporter South Korea will import gasoline for the first time in three years this June amid heavy refinery turnarounds

Korea Imports Gas For The First Time In Three Years

Gasoline exporter South Korea will import gasoline for the first time in three years this June amid heavy refinery turnarounds.

The country's largest refiner SK Energy plans to import a medium-range cargo of around 30,000 mt, comprising low-sulfur gasoline in the first half of June.

SK Energy is shutting a 57,000 b/d residue fluid catalytic cracker and its largest crude unit -- the 260,000 b/d No. 5 crude distillation unit—for a planned turnaround over May 29-June 25, at its 840,000 b/d refinery in Ulsan.

On a country-wide basis, refinery turnarounds will peak in H2 June, when some 25% of the country's 2.77 million b/d refining capacity is shut for maintenance.

This is heavier than in 2007, where 19% of refining capacity was taken offline during the peak turnaround period that ran from H2 June-H1 July.

Gasoline imports for South Korea ground to a halt in 2005, mainly after refiner Hyundai Oilbank, which is typically short of gasoline to meet its own retail network, inked supply contracts with fellow refiners GS Caltex and SK Corp.

The country's last import was in April 2005, of 4,000 barrels, according to data from state-run Korea National Oil Corp.

Total imports in 2005 reached 78,000 barrels (214 b/d), or down 93.6% from a year ago.

South Korea is an exporter of gasoline, exporting 5.277 million barrels (58,600 b/d) in the first quarter of this year, up 54.2% from January-March 2007.

Monthly gasoline exports are set to rise by around 1 million barrels from July, once SK Energy starts commercial operations of its new 60,000 b/d RFCC in end-June.

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