Kuwait's crude oil exports to Japan in January hit a four-year high of 11.32 million barrels, or 365,000 barrels per day (bpd), up 22.4 percent from a year earlier, government data showed.The figure was the highest since April 2010, when Kuwait's crude shipments to Japan reached 12.28 million tons (409,000 bpd), according to a preliminary report released from the Japanese Natural Resources and Energy Agency.As Japan's fourth-biggest oil provider last month, Kuwait supplied 9.1 percent of the Asian nation's total crude imports. Japan's overall imports of crude oil edged down 1.6 percent year-on-year to 4.0 million bpd for the second consecutive monthly decline.
Shipments from the Middle East accounted for 83.2 percent of total, up 0.4 percentage points from a year before. Saudi Arabia remained Japan's No.1 oil supplier, although imports from the kingdom fell 11.2 percent from a year earlier to 1.14 million bpd, followed by the United Arab Emirates with 820,000 bpd, down 4.4 percent. Qatar ranked third with 542,000 bpd and Russia fifth with 321,000 bpd, respectively.Japan's biggest refiner said last month it seeks continuous and stable flow of energy from Kuwait and greater cooperation with its oil companies, including naphtha trading."Kuwait has long been a reliable petroleum supplier to Japan. I hope the country will maintain the contribution to stable and flexible supply of oil for the Japanese people," Yasushi Kimura, Chairman of JX Holdings Inc. said in an exclusive interview with Kuwait News Agency (KUNA).JX has the country's largest oil refining capacity and the top share of fuel sales. It plans to stop a crude oil distillation unit of the 180,000 bpd Muroran refinery in northern Japan this month as part of efforts to reduce excess oil refining capacity, and convert it into a petrochemical plant from June.Some of its petrochemical products are going to be used for a newly-established paraxylene joint venture in South Korea that will go on-stream this year."We wish to chase the opportunities to materialize naphtha imports as petrochemical feedstock that are expected to grow after we convert the Muroran refinery into a petrochemical plant," Kimura said.