Japan lost oil supplies from South Sudan, even as its total crude purchases for generating power surged because of the need to replace electricity from idle atomic reactors.
The country imported 1.75 million kiloliters of oil, or about 369,000 barrels a day, for power generation in February, more than four times as much as a year ago, according to data today from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
Imports for power generation were up 15 percent from January. February’s purchases for power plants accounted for 9.6 percent of Japan’s total crude imports of 17.76 million kiloliters for the month, according to the trade ministry data.
The increase comes amid a halt in supplies of low-sulfur crude from South Sudan, which is suitable for many oil-fired generators in Japan.
South Sudan shut oil production in January after accusing its northern neighbor, from which it seceded in July to become an independent state, of stealing its crude. Japan had imported 142,613 kiloliters of crude from South Sudan in December and bought 90,555 kiloliters from the African country in January.
The dispute around South Sudan has removed about 360,000 barrels a day from global markets since the end of January and placed an “additional burden” on Japan, Michael Hsueh, a London-based analyst at Deutsche Bank AG, said in a report this month.
“Supply of low-sulfur crude oil used for power generation is getting tighter due to the issue of South Sudan,” Tsutomu Sugimori, senior vice president of JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp., Japan’s largest refiner, said at a press conference today. “We are trying our best to secure alternatives.”
Japan appeared to be shifting some of its purchases to Sudan, which exported 235,055 kiloliters to the Asian country in February, up 160 percent from a year earlier, when the country also included its southern neighbor.
Imports from Gabon, which also produces grades of crude that Japanese generators can burn, increased 67 percent to 421,300 kiloliters in February from January. Japan imported no oil from Gabon in February 2011.
Japan is consuming the most oil in four years in response to the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami that wrecked three reactors at the Fukushima plant northeast of Tokyo, triggering the worst radiation leak since Chernobyl in the 1980s. The country relied on nuclear sources for almost 30 percent of its electricity before the disaster.