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Interview: Idemitsu to boost North America oil products sales from Vancouver: president

Tokyo — Japanese refiner Idemitsu Kosan intends to boost its oil product sales from its leased supply base in Vancouver, western Canada, a foothold to expand its sales in North America, President Shunichi Kito told S&P Global Platts.

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"Using our leased terminal in Vancouver, we aim to boost our sales [of oil products] in the west coast of North America," Kito said in an interview at the company headquarters in Tokyo, following the recent release of its first mid-to long-term business plans after its business consolidation with Showa Shell in April.

Idemitsu Kosan's business plans outlined its intention to further increase its oil products sales in the Asia Pacific region, where it sees oil products demand growth at least until 2030.

Since its acquisition of New West Petroleum's fuels business in 2010 to expand its presence in the US West Coast wholesale market, "We have a fairly large petroleum wholesale business selling about 4 million kiloliters [25.16 million barrels/year]," Kito said.

Its wholesale oil products sales in the US West Coast wholesale market has grown from around 2.4 million kl (15.1 million barrels)/year of gasoline and gasoil at the time of the acquisition.

TARGETS 'NICHE'

With its leased terminal at Vancouver, Idemitsu Kosan is now looking to expand its overseas wholesale oil product sales into "niche" markets, Kito said.

"Currently we are [selling] about 20 million kl (125.80 million barrels/year) overseas and looking to expand it to 30 million kl (517,000 b/d) by 2030," Kito said.

Idemitsu Kosan's overseas oil products sales volume, which include oil products exports from Japan, has already been rising in recent years as a result of the expansion of trading out of Singapore as well as the boost in sales in Australia after a series of acquisitions there.

For fiscal 2019-2020 (April-March), Idemitsu Kosan expects to sell about 20 million kl of overseas oil products sales volume, up 33% from about 15 million kl in the previous fiscal year due in part to its increased oil product exports as a result of its consolidation with Showa Shell.

Idemitsu Kosan's oil products sales volume abroad already stands just below half of its domestic oil products sales volume of about 43 million kl for the fiscal year ending March 2020, during when its total oil products sales volume to be about 63 million kl or 1.09 million b/d.

In addition to its oil products sales volume abroad, Vietnam's 200,000 b/d Nghi Son refinery, where Idemitsu Kosan has a 35.1% stake, is expected to have "full operation rates" next year as it does not have any scheduled maintenance after completing the current scheduled turnaround after facing some issues this year, Kito said.

IMO UPGRADES

On the domestic front, Idemitsu Kosan is currently expanding its capacity of secondary units at the 190,000 b/d Chiba refinery in Tokyo Bay as it shifts its bunker fuel production for the International Maritime Organization's global low sulfur mandate for marine fuels taking effect next year, Kito said.

"We are currently working to increase the capacity of a direct desulfurizer by June 2020 at Chiba, where we are also working on what we call a conversion of our FCC [fluid catalytic cracker] to RFCC [residue fluid catalytic cracker] in order to be able to process more residue, which takes another one year to complete in 2021," Kito said.

The IMO will cap global sulfur content in marine fuels at 0.5% from January 1, down from the current 3.5%.

Currently, Idemitsu Kosan's Chiba refinery produces a large amount of residue in its refining process, as the plant is its main center for the production of lubricants in Japan with an 11,600 b/d lube hydrotreating unit, where it has room to produce cleaner products, Kito said.

Despite its intention to boost production at a 40,000 b/d residual hydrodesulfurizing unit and a 45,000 b/d fluid catalytic cracking unit at the Chiba refinery, Idemitsu Kosan is looking to process its residue or asphalt from Chiba at its 70,000 b/d Keihin refinery in Tokyo Bay or at Fuji Oil's adjacent 143,000 b/d Sodegaura refinery, Kito said.

The business integration with Showa Shell has boosted Idemitsu Kosan's residual cracking ratio to the highest in Japan at 59.7% over its group of seven refineries with a combined capacity of 1.09 million b/d. This includes the Sodegaura refinery operated by Fuji Oil, in which it has a 6.66% stake.

Fuji Oil's Sodegaura refinery is competitive with its 33,000 b/d coker and a berth, which can accept up to around 120,000 dwt tankers for oil product exports, Kito said.

Starting October 1, Idemitsu Kosan began supplying IMO-compliant bunker fuel oil from its Chiba refinery, the 160,000 b/d Aichi refinery and the 255,000 b/d Yokkaichi refinery in central Japan as well as at the 120,000 b/d Seibu refinery in western Japan. It also started supplying IMO-compliant bunker fuel oil at the 150,000 b/d Hokkaido refinery on December 1.

-- Takeo Kumagai, takeo.kumagai@spglobal.com

-- Daisuke Shibata, daisuke.shibata@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Norazlina Jumaat, newsdesk@spglobal.com

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