Japan Buys More Oil for Power Stations on Idled Atomic Units

Japan’s imports of oil for electricity generation rose 35 percent in August as the country continued to replace lost nuclear capacity with thermal power.

Japan bought 1.27 million kiloliters of oil, or about 257,000 barrels a day, to produce electricity last month, according to data today from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. That’s up from 938,258 kiloliters a year earlier.

Crude shipments last month were 17.8 million kiloliters, up 2.9 percent from a year ago, the report showed. Purchases for electricity plants accounted for about 7 percent of the intake.

Japan, the world’s third-largest crude user after the U.S. and China, is seeking replacement energy sources after losing nearly all of its nuclear output following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which caused the meltdown of three reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima atomic station.

Only two of Japan’s 50 functioning reactors, all of which were idled for safety checks since the disaster, have been permitted to resume operation. Japan’s nuclear utilization rate was 5.1 percent in August, down from 26.4 percent a year earlier, according to data released Sept. 14 by the Federation of Electric Power Companies.

Iran Imports

Crude imports from Vietnam, which produces grades that some Japanese generators can burn, increased 37 percent to 457,478 kiloliters from 333,812 in August 2011. Russia, which sells East Siberian Pacific Ocean pipeline crude to JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp., shipped 728,409 kiloliters, overtaking Oman as Japan’s fifth-biggest supplier.

Oil purchases from Iran dropped 67 percent to 497,961 kiloliters as buyers turned to alternative oil sources following Western sanctions targeting the Middle East country’s nuclear program.

Statistics based on custom-clearance data yesterday by the Ministry of Finance showed a similar decline in crude imports from Iran. Today’s trade ministry statistics are based on data collected from buyers via questionnaire and include fuel in so-called bonded storage tanks that haven’t passed customs.

Japan’s oil-product imports declined 13 percent to 3.08 million kiloliters, while exports fell 6.6 percent to 2.58 million, today’s data showed.

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