Japanese oil demand grew annually for the first time in 14 months, up by 0.23 mb/d y/y to 3.81 mb/d in November—also the fastest pace of annual growth since May 2012—as the early onset of winter boosted heating demand. HDDs spiked in November by a massive 33% y/y and were 15% higher than the five-year norm, with northern Japan receiving its heaviest snowfall in decades and even Tokyo experiencing rare snowfall. Demand for all products rose, led by LPG—which grew by 81 thousand b/d y/y, boosted by petrochemicals feedstock and city gas demand. Demand for kerosene, which is used as heating oil in Japan, grew by 75 thousand b/d y/y, as did fuel oil, which was boosted by utility demand and rose by 31 thousand b/d y/y. Naphtha demand grew for the first time in five months, by 53 thousand b/d y/y, while diesel demand was likely boosted by a growth in manufacturing (PMI was above 50 in November for the second consecutive month) and increased by 38 thousand b/d y/y. Transportation fuels—gasoline and jet—grew collectively by 15 thousand b/d y/y. However, overall oil demand growth was dragged down by utility demand for crude burn, which fell by 80 thousand b/d y/y.
Refinery runs grew y/y for the first time in four months, by 86 thousand b/d to 3.27 mb/d in November. Crude imports however, fell by 0.12 mb/d y/y, resulting in a 5.1 mb m/m draw in crude inventories. The largest y/y drops were from Kuwait (-0.14 mb/d) and Russia (-0.1 mb/d). Saharan blend was imported into Japan for the first time since May 2013, boosted by a narrow Brent-Dubai spread. With product inventories falling to a four month low of 91.24 mb (with gasoline, naphtha and jet/kero inventories at multi-month lows), Japan turned into net importer of products for the first time since January 2016, driven by a rebound in naphtha imports.