S.Korea to continue push to become northeast Asian oil hub, despite delays

SEOUL, March 16 (Reuters) – South Korea will continue its project to become world’s fourth-largest oil hub by 2020, despite some delay in finding investors to construct one of the tank terminals, its energy ministry said on Wednesday.

Asia’s fourth largest economy established a plan in 2014 to turn the cities of Yeosu and Ulsan into northeast Asia’s oil cluster, after the U.S. Gulf Coast, ARA and Singapore.

Yet, construction at Ulsan’s North port that was supposed to start this year but has been delayed as recruiting investors is taking longer than expected.

As of March this year, a tank terminal at Yeosu which was built in 2014 has been operating successfully with customers inking deals to use 99.7 percent of the facility’s capacity.

Upon completion of both facilities, the country wants to seize the opportunity in the region’s booming market where oil demand is seen to be around 18 million barrels per day and increase oil product exports, said a ministry official without giving specific timeline and amount.

The energy ministry hopes the oil hub can help boost competition in the oligopolistic oil refining industry in South Korea, a statement from the ministry said.

Tank terminals at Yeosu have 8.2 million barrels of capacity while Ulsan’s North port and South port will hold 9.9 million barrels and 18.5 million barrels respectively, according to Korea National Oil Corp’s website (www.knoc.co.kr/eng).

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