Korean oil demand grew for the fifth time in six months this year, rising by 37 thousand b/d y/y to 2.52 mb/d in June. Demand growth was heavily skewed towards light ends, with LPG demand up y/y by 20 thousand b/d led by propane (+17 thousand b/d y/y) and naphtha demand higher y/y by 28 thousand b/d. While LPG remained the more economical petrochemical feedstock relative to naphtha, a trend we expect to continue through the rest of 2018, naphtha demand remained supported after term lifters of Iranian South Pars condensate (SPC) had supplies reduced by 4 mb a month in Q2 18 and turned to naphtha as a substitute. With term lifters completely halting SPC liftings from July onwards due to US sanctions on Iran, thereby cutting imports of SPC by a further 7 mb a month, demand for naphtha will stay robust through 2018. Gasoline and jet posted gains of 5 thousand b/d and 2 thousand b/d y/y respectively, but diesel demand fell y/y again (-9 thousand b/d) as the manufacturing PMI stayed sub-50 for the fourth straight month, at 49.8. Fuel oil demand was down y/y by 3 thousand b/d as LNG was preferred.
Refinery runs eased m/m but were 0.24 mb/d higher y/y at 3.01 mb/d. Runs cuts were being mulled at the start of July but would likely be small (if any) given the rebound in refining margins this month. Crude imports grew by 0.36 mb/d y/y led by Saudi Arabia (+0.22 mb/d) and Americas (+0.15 mb/d), offsetting the lowest imports from Iran (-0.13 mb/d y/y) since December 2015. Net product exports grew by 0.15 mb/d y/y led by gasoline (+74 thousand b/d) and diesel (+66 thousand b/d). Refineries raised gasoline (+1.6 ppts) and jet (+0.6 ppts) yields y/y at the expense of fuel oil (-1.4 ppts). Crude stocks built m/m by 7.5 mb and product stocks built by 4.3 mb, mainly on a 1.8 mb build in naphtha.