Idemitsu Mulls Singapore Storage to Feed ‘World’s Oil Stomach’

Idemitsu Kosan Co., Japan’s third-biggest refiner, is looking to lease fuel-storage tanks in Singapore as it expands its trading business in Asia’s oil hub.

The Tokyo-based refiner plans to use the storage to blend and supply gasoline to Australia and other countries in the region, Kiyoshi Homma, the general manager of the integrated supply and trading department, said in an interview on July 10. Traders and refiners lease or own facilities in Singapore to import, mix and trade products including diesel, jet fuel and ship bunker. The city-state has about 70 million barrels of commercial storage capacity, according to Alex Yap, a Singapore-based analyst at FGE, an energy consultant.

Japan’s exports of oil products rose 21 percent in the year ended March 31 as refiners seek new markets amid declining consumption at home. Gasoline demand will fall 2 percent a year on average through fiscal 2018 because of a shrinking population and improved energy efficiency, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Economy.

“Japan’s demand for gasoline is expected to considerably drop in coming years,” Homma said. “There will be more oil products overflowing from the U.S. and Middle East into Asia, the world’s stomach for oil, where supplies can be always absorbed.”

Idemitsu acquired Freedom Energy Holdings, an Australian petroleum products distributor, in December 2012. The company, based in Brisbane, Queensland, sells diesel and gasoline wholesale and operates about 40 retail stations in the country, Idemitsu said at that time.

Oil Flow

Idemitsu and its partners including Kuwait Petroleum International Ltd. are also developing a $9 billion refinery project in Vietnam. The Nghi Son plant in Thanh Hoa province, with a capacity of 200,000 barrels a day, is scheduled to start commercial operations in 2017.

These supply and distribution assets will help maximize profits by bringing products from countries where prices are the lowest to where they are higher, Homma said.

Idemitsu is also interested in sourcing feedstock from the U.S., where production has increased. New technologies including horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have unlocked reserves trapped in shale deposits.

“Global oil flow is rapidly changing” as the U.S. ships overseas larger amounts of oil products amid the shale boom, Homma said. There are signs that the nation’s four-decade ban on crude and unrefined feedstock exports is easing.

Pioneer Natural Resources Ltd. and Enterprise Products Partners LP said last month that the Commerce Department approved their plans to export some ultra-light crude, known as condensate, after it undergoes a stabilizing process that includes a distillation tower. The U.S. could export as much as 300,000 a day of condensate by year-end, Citigroup Inc. said in a report on June 25.

Idemitsu has been approached by a company selling the feedstock sourced from the U.S., Homma said, declining to provide further details.

“We do have an interest in condensate from the U.S,” Homma said. With producers taking major profits “we wouldn’t be able to buy it cheap,” Homma said.

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