SEOUL, Mar. 12 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea outstripped China as the world’s No. 2 importer of U.S. crude oil in 2018 due to its cheaper price and a Sino-American trade war, an industry report said Tuesday.
South Korea’s daily average imports of American crude amounted to 236,000 barrels last year, trailing Canada’s 378,000 barrels, according to the report from energy industry tracker S&P Global Platts.
China was the third-largest importer of U.S. crude with 228,000 barrels per day, the report based on data from the U.S. International Energy Agency showed.
In December alone, South Korea’s imports of American crude grew sharply. Asia’s fourth-largest economy brought in a daily average of 558,000 barrels, compared with 351,000 barrels the previous month.
The amount was much larger than Canada’s daily imports of 431,000 barrels during the final month of last year.
Industry watchers attributed the surge in South Korea’s U.S. crude imports to its price competitiveness and the trade row between Washington and Beijing.
Overall prices of crude produced in the Middle East went up last year, while U.S. crude costs declined thanks to America’s increased shale production.
“The price gap between Dubai crude and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) widened to US$8 per barrel in December from the previous $2-3 band,” an industry source said.
The trade dispute between the two largest economies was also responsible. China’s imports of U.S. crude peaked at a daily average of 510,000 barrels in June last year before declining.
According to the Korea Energy Economics Institute, China didn’t import any U.S. crude oil in October and December last year, and in January this year.
Market watchers, however, said China’s imports of American crude could increase anytime depending on the outcome of their ongoing disputes to end the bruising trade war.