Idemitsu to expand Singapore oil unit amid Vietnam refinery plan

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Idemitsu Kosan Co., the Japanese refiner that closed 23 percent of processing capacity since 2003, will boost crude and oil-products trading in Singapore as it expands its business overseas.

Idemitsu plans to invest $9 billion with its partners to build a 200,000 barrel-a-day refinery in Vietnam to capture increasing demand there amid falling domestic consumption. The Nghi Son plant is scheduled to begin operation in 2017.

"We have to enhance the function of the Singapore office because we will have new refinery in Vietnam," Takashi Tsukioka, president-designate of the company, said in a May 31 interview. "Countries such as Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia are also expected to develop further."

Japan's gasoline demand will shrink 31 percent by 2020 from 2010 levels and 60 percent by 2030 due to improving fuel efficiency, according to forecasts by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Idemitsu's Singapore unit, which consists of three traders, will be responsible for arranging crude shipments to Vietnam from Kuwait, Tsukioka said. Idemitsu and Kuwait Petroleum International each have a 35.1 percent stake in the project. The refinery is designed to process heavy crude with 30.2 degrees of gravity as defined by the American Petroleum Institute, according to a statement posted on Idemitsu's website.

Oil procurement

The Singapore team will also be responsible for buying oil products for Freedom Energy Holdings Pty, Idemitsu's Australian oil-distribution unit, and finding customers for products exported from Japan, he said.

The refiner in December bought 100 percent of Freedom Energy, which owns an import terminal in Brisbane, Queensland, and sells wholesale fuel and operates about 40 gas stations on Australia's east coast.

Idemitsu plans to boost fuel exports by 19 percent to 1.3 million kiloliters in the fiscal year that began on April 1, according to its earnings statement.

The company closed its 80,000 barrel-a-day Hyogo refinery and 110,000 barrel-a-day Okinawa plant in 2003 to reduce refining capacity because of slowing oil-product consumption in the country. It also plans to stop refining at the 120,000 barrel-a-day Tokuyama refinery in March 2014 to meet trade ministry requirements. Prior to 2003 it had a total processing capacity of 830,000 barrels a day.

The ministry required Japanese refiners in 2010 to either increase the ratio of residue cracking compared with crude distillation to compel them to modernize their plants or cut capacity to ease an oversupplied market.

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