South Korea Aims To Import Additional LPG Into LNG


  • Industries, and utilities to maximize LNG’s heating value by adding LPG
  • LNG prices elevated, winter demand for LPG to fill a petrochemical gap
  • Asia is still well supplied with LPG, capping price upside

In order to increase the calorific value of regasified LNG for use in heavy industries and utilities, South Korea is likely to seek out more liquefied petroleum gas in the upcoming months.

Strong demand

The move is prompted by a rise in LNG prices on strong demand from Europe and North Asian buyers gearing up for winter procurement amid limited supplies due to the Russia-Ukraine war as well as other facility outages.

Last month in North Asia, Japan’s JERA, South Korea’s Kogas and Taiwan’s CPC Corp. — the largest importers in their respective markets — were reportedly actively scouting the need for winter deliveries, starting from November.

High spot LNG prices are causing end users to look to alternative fuels for their energy needs, Jeff Moore, Manager of LNG Analytics Asia at S&P Global Commodity Insights said on Aug. 31.

The Platts JKM for October recently breached $70/MMBtu on Aug. 29, S&P Global data showed.

Although prices have eased, they remain elevated with the Platts assessed JKM at $59.073/MMBtu on Aug. 31.

“Given that spot LNG prices are priced above other fuels such as oil and other liquids, it makes sense for end users to seek out using these fuels to limit their exposure to LNG,” Moore said.

“However, the ability to do this is still limited given infrastructure and boiler constraints if the heat content gets too high,” Moore added.

LPG to the rescue

Market sources told S&P Global that over the next seven to eight months, South Korea could seek 80,000-100,000 mt/month of LPG, as consumers fret over a repeat of the record rally seen in early March.

When contacted, South Korean LPG importers such as SK Gas and E1 Corp. sources declined to disclose their import plans.

Front-cycle CFR North Asia propane fell to $649.5/mt on Aug. 8, the lowest in more than eight months, before recovering to $686.5/mt on Aug. 31.

Of the total, LPG demand for petrochemical production rose 14.4% on the year to 41.71 million barrels over January-July, compared with 36.45 million barrels in the year-ago period.

LPG demand for vehicles accounted for 20% of total LPG demand from January-July.

The decline came despite the government expanding taxes on auto fuels — diesel, gasoline and butane — to a legal cap of 37%, from July 1 to the end of this year, up from 20% between Nov. 12 and April 30 and 30% between May 1 and June 30.

Heavy industries, utilities support LNG demand

To meet demand from heavy industries and utilities, South Korea’s LPG imports climbed 14% on the year to 63.88 million barrels in the first seven months, from 56.04 million barrels in the year-ago period.

Of total imports over January-July, 53.21 million barrels, or 83.3%, came from the US, up from 52.23 million barrels a year ago; 4.44 million barrels from Canada, up from 1.09 million barrels a year earlier, and 2.55 million barrels from Australia, sharply up from 299,000 barrels a year earlier.

With the regional petrochemical sector currently struggling with poor olefin margins that have prompted steam crackers and propane dehydrogenation plants to reduce processing rates, demand for naphtha and LPG has been under pressure, trade sources said.

The recent recovery in LPG prices on account of constant healthy supply comes as the region looks to the onset of the Q4 trading cycle amid a market which remains in contango and could stir demand for restocking if a harsh winter emerges.

The LPG needed for spiking into LNG will be mainly for industrial use instead of the petrochemical sector, which could further support the LPG market in Q4 and into Q1 2023, market sources said.

Market sources expect mainly gas companies such as Korea Gas Corp., or Kogas, and industrial users such as major steel maker POSCO to look to LPG to add to LNG.


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Source: S&P Global