* Weekly gasoline shipments stay above 1 mil b/d
* Heat wave, low prices drive demand
* Gasoline exports surge
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Japan's gasoline shipments rose to a multi-year high of over 1 million b/d in mid-August as demand rose due to a heat wave and low pump prices.
Gasoline shipments were at a two-year high of 1.1 million b/d in the week to August 15, according to industry estimates based on oil product stocks, production and export data released by the Petroleum Association of Japan Wednesday.
Shipments for the week ended August 15 were was up 27.5% year on year.
The last time shipments were above this level was in the week to August 17, 2013 when they averaged 1.15 million b/d.
The August 9-15 gasoline shipments were also up 2.1% from the previous week -- August 2-8 -- when they were estimated at 1.08 million b/d.
The previous week's estimates were also up -- 7.1% year on year and up 10.3% from the week ended August 1, according to industry estimates.
PAJ released the weekly oil statistics for August 2-8 and 9-15 on the same day.
This is the first time since 2011 that estimates showed weekly gasoline shipments crossing the 1.2 billion liter (1.08 million b/d) mark for two consecutive weeks in August.
The last time this happened was in the two weeks to August 13, 2011.
HEAT WAVE, PRICE DECLINE
Japan is in the middle of its peak demand summer driving season, which normally runs until the end of August.
Japan's summer gasoline demand had been bearish, but has picked up in recent weeks due to warmer weather and lower retail prices from a year ago, according to an official at the Oil Information Center attached to the Institute of Energy Economics Japan.
The OIC official added that domestic gasoline demand rose as heat waves forced drivers to crank up the air conditioning resulting in higher fuel consumption.
According to the latest OIC data released Wednesday, Japan's average retail regular gasoline price was Yen 138.20/liter ($4.22/gal) as of August 17, down 1.3% from the previous week, marking the sixth consecutive week-on-week decrease, the official added.
The price was also down 18.2% from Yen 169/liter a year earlier.
In addition to higher domestic shipments, Japan's gasoline exports surged for two consecutive weeks, which has reduced motorfuel stocks as of August 15 to 4% below those a year earlier, according to Platts data.
In the week to August 15, gasoline exports came in at 449,295 barrels, more than four times the 110,251 barrels exported the previous week, according to PAJ data.
The August 2-8 gasoline exports of 110,251 barrels were more than triple the 30,343 barrels exported the week before.
The drop in stocks came despite a rise in domestic gasoline output for both the week of August 9-15 and the week of August 2-8.
Japanese refiners produced 8.05 million barrels in the week ended August 15, up 21.8% year on year and up 5.5% from the previous week.
The previous week's production was 7.63 million barrels, which was up 15% year on year and up 17% on the week.