(EnergyAsia, April 27 2011, Wednesday) — Japan’s oil refiners have raised their throughput to the four-million-b/d level they were operating at before the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster took down refineries in eastern and northeastern Japan, said the Petroleum Association of Japan chief.

They have restarted some of the plants in the affected areas while raising throughput in western Japan to gradually lift production which fell to a multi-decade low of 2.7 million b/d shortly after the tragedy, said PAJ President Akihiko Tembo. Japan will still need to import products to meet its 3.3-million-b/d domestic demand and replenish its fuel stockpile.

More than 26,000 people have died or are missing after the 9-richter scale quake struck and unleashed a tsunami that swept some 10km into northeastern Japan.
JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp’s refinery in Sendai, Kashima Oil Co’s in Kamisu in Ibaraki Prefecture, and Cosmo Oil Co’s in Ichihara in Chiba Prefecture remain idled as they were the most damaged, said Mr Kembo, who is also chairman of Idemitsu Kosan Co, Japan’s third-largest refiner.

Kashima expects to restart its refinery in coming months, while Cosmo Oil Co said it was still assessing the damage to its Chiba refinery.

JX Nippon Oil and Energy Corp, a refining unit of JX Holdings, said it is aiming to resume production at the Sendai plant around the middle of next year.

Earlier, Japan’s leading refiner said it had resumed full operation at its 270,000-b/d Negishi refinery after it was shut down as a precaution following the
March 11 quake.