*South Korea, the world’s number four crude importer behind China, the USA and India, saw volumes fall by 1.6% (42,000 b/d) to a 7-year low 2.616mn b/d for 2021. However, at least before Omicron hit, recent months had shown signs of a rebound from the Covid-slump. At 2.719mn b/d, Q4 2021 volumes were up 7% year-on-year for the highest quarterly figure since 3Q 2020, whilst December’s 2.757mn b/d was the highest monthly figure in 18 months (see table).
*Aside from the fall in overall volumes, the other key trend in the 2021 stats is the continued slump in the market share of Middle East suppliers. From a market share of over 80% to 2017, Gulf countries’ share fell to 69% for 2020 (MEES, 15 January 2021) and slumped again to a record low 60% for 2021. In absolute terms the 1.576mn b/d that Korea imported from the Gulf last year was the lowest since 1996 (see chart). (CONTINUED - 382 WORDS)