South Korea is increasingly bringing in African crude oil, as its prices have become more attractive due to competition with shale gas, refiners here said Sunday.
Seoul imported 9.6 million barrels of African crude oil and "condensate," a type of ultra-light crude, in the first quarter of this year, according to (Yonhap) news agency.
Annual imports of African oil have been on a steady increase in recent years, rising to 25.3 million barrels in 2014 and 26.69 million barrels in 2015 after bottoming out at 2.77 million barrels in 2011. At the current pace, this year's annual import volume may top 40 million barrels for the first time in a decade.
African oil is relatively expensive, a reason that South Korea has traditionally depended on the Middle East for crude oil supplies.
But South Korea has stepped up efforts to diversify its oil imports amid repeated geopolitical crises in the Middle East and in search of high-quality crude.
Among local refiners keenly interested in African oil imports are SK Innovation Co. and GS Caltex Corp.
In particular, SK's shipments of African oil accounted for 54.5% of total imports from the continent by South Korea in the first three months this year.