Japanese November oil demand picked up m/m by only 0.12 mb/d to 3.58 mb/d, compared to the seasonal m/m increase of 0.37 mb/d, amidst an exceptionally warm winter due to one of the strongest El Niño effects on record. Japanese HDDs were 11% lower y/y and 17% below the five-year average. This meant demand was lower y/y by a massive 0.31 mb/d, with the November 2015 reading the lowest for the month since 1969. LPG demand plummeted y/y by 92 thousand b/d to 0.36 mb/d while fuel oil demand was lower y/y by 89 thousand b/d. Kerosene demand also fell sharply, by 51 thousand b/d. The restart of nuclear plants, increased renewables, and lower power consumption (down y/y by 4% in November) also contributed to weak oil demand and are set to weigh on oil demand going forward as well. The restart of the second Sendai reactor in October is set to cut Kyushu Electric's winter oil demand for thermal generation by almost 90% y/y between December 2015 and March 2016. Shikoku Electric’s Ikata No 3 reactor also won approval from local government authorities to restart, while Takahama 3 and 4 nuclear plants are set to return in H1 16, paving the way for the start of another 1.7 GW of nuclear capacity. This could weigh further on fuel oil in the coming months, especially with the winter set to stay warm through Q1 16. Naphtha demand was also weak, lower y/y by 43 thousand b/d, despite strong naphtha cracker utilisation rates.
November refinery runs picked up m/m by 0.14 mb/d to 3.19 mb/d, as offline capacity fell to 0.46 mb/d, with the 0.14 mb/d CDU at Tonen’s Wakayama refinery the largest unit offline. This meant despite crude imports rising m/m to 3.26 mb/d, crude stocks fell by 1 mb m/m. In December, runs should rise further as total offline capacity falls to just 79 thousand b/d.