Vietnam a big oil exporter, but even bigger importer

By Hoai Thu   May 16, 2022 | 11:47 pm PT
Vietnam exported 3.1 million tons of crude oil last year but imported 10 million tons since domestic supply only met 70 percent of demand.

On average, crude output has dropped by around a million tons a year in the last six years.

Last year, it was 10.97 million tons, including 1.87 million obtained from state-owned Petrovietnam’s projects abroad.

This meant local output was down 40 percent from 2016, while overseas supply was only 7 percent lower.

Graphic by VnExpress/Ta Lu.

Graphic by VnExpress/Ta Lu

Several other key indicators have also declined in recent years. Reserves growth were down from 40.5 million ton in 2015 to 4.6 million tons.

The number of new fields discovered and investments also shrank.

Between 2011 and 2015 the number of new discoveries was 24, but it fell to seven in the next six, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Only three contracts for exploration and drilling were signed between 2016 and 2020, a seventh of the number in the previous five years.

Exporter turned importer

Vietnam was a crude oil exporter, selling 5.63 million tons on the international market in 2017.

But it became an importer a year later, following the construction of its largest refinery, Nghi Son.

Situated in Thanh Hoa Province, it has an annual capacity of 10 million tons of crude with a possibility to increase to 20 million.

It is designed to process mostly crude oil imported from Kuwait.

Graphic by VnExpress/Ta Lu.

Graphic by VnExpress/Ta Lu

Last year, two thirds of Vietnam’s crude oil output were refined at Dung Quat, the country’s first facility with a capacity of 6.5 million tons.

The rest was exported.

Analysts said Vietnam’s sweet crude (petroleum with less than 0.5% sulfur) is more expensive than the imported sour crude from the Middle East.

In the first four months of this year Petrovietnam saw a near doubling of its profits to VND24.1 trillion (US$1.04 billion), thanks to rising global prices.

"Exporting oil and then importing it for [local] production is not uncommon," one analyst said.

Vietnam’s fuel supply

Vietnam’s two refineries supply 10-13 million tons of petroleum products annually, accounting for 70 percent of local requirements.

Another 600,000 tons are produced by some condensate gas plants in the south.

Graphic by VnExpress/Ta Lu.

Graphic by VnExpress/Ta Lu.

Vietnam’s annual fuel demand is 20.5-21 million tons. It imports around 11.5 million tons a year, mainly from Southeast Asia, South Korea and China.

Graphic by VnExpress/Ta Lu.

Graphic by VnExpress/Ta Lu

The country also exports around two million tons of petroleum products to markets like Cambodia (30 percent of share), Singapore (20 percent) and China (10 percent).

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