Petrotahlil - Japan's imports of naphtha rebounded last year, despite lower ethylene production because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and more cracker maintenance. Run cuts by domestic refineries, also hit by the pandemic, resulted in lower output of naphtha that prompted ethylene producers to seek imports.
Japan imported 18.3mn t of naphtha in 2020, up by 6.4pc from 17.2mn t a year earlier, according to preliminary data released today by the finance ministry. But this was still lower compared with 18.8mn t in 2019.
Qatar was the top supplier to Japan for 2020, with its supplies rising by 21.4pc from a year earlier to 3.8mn t, or 21pc of total imports. This was followed by 2.9mn t from the UAE that was down by 15.7pc.
Japan's ethylene production in 2020 fell by 7.7pc from a year earlier to 5.9mn t, as a stuttering economy because of Covid-19 reduced demand for petrochemical products. The fall also reflected more ethylene crackers entering maintenance.
The country's ethylene producers had to import more naphtha to compensate for reduced supplies from domestic refineries, which cut operations to meet weaker demand for refined oil products, especially jet fuel, with coronavirus-led travel restrictions.
Naphtha production is forecast to recover in the April 2021-March 2022 fiscal year, with sales by refiners projected at 718,611 b/d and up by 4.1pc from 2020-21, according to government-affiliated think-tank the Institute of Energy Economics Japan (IEEJ). The IEEJ also expects ethylene production to increase by 4.9pc to 6.09mn t in 2021-22.
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