* Sees favourable margins in Q4 on heating oil demand
* New refining, petchem units to start commercial operations in Nov
* Expects new unit start-up to support Q4 earnings
* Q3 operating profit 316 bln won vs 553 bln won year earlier (Adds comments, details, graphic)
By Jane Chung
SEOUL, Oct 26 (Reuters) - South Korea’s S-Oil Corp said on Friday it expected fourth quarter refining margins to rise on higher seasonal demand and tight regional supply and with the start of its new refining and petrochemical plants supporting earnings.
Singapore refining margins DUB-SIN-REF, the benchmark profits for Asian oil processors, rose to $7.99 a barrel on Aug. 15, the highest since margins rebounded in July, supported by rising demand for gasoline and jet fuel. The profits from refining a barrel of benchmark Dubai crude into fuel currently stands at $5.23 a barrel.
Asian gasoil margins hit their highest in more than three years on Wednesday, pushed higher by lower supplies in region and expectations for increased gasoil demand as consumers move to meet stricter marine fuel regulations.
“The seasonal demand growth and limited capacity expansions in Asia Pacific will further boost the refining margin,” the refiner, whose top shareholder is Saudi Aramco, said in an earnings statement.
The company said heating oil demand will increase refining margins as winter approaches.
S-Oil posted a 42.9 percent decline in operating profit to 316 billion won ($277.67 million) for the July-September period, due to reduced inventory-related gains and despite improved refining margins. Operating profit was down from 553 billion won in the same period a year earlier.
The company also said its new residue fuel oil and olefin plants, known as the residue upgrading complex and olefin downstream complex (ODC), are expected to begin commercial operations in November.
The new units will churn out 405,000 tonnes per annum (TPA) of polypropylene, 300,000 TPA of propylene oxide, and 21,000 barrels per day of gasoline.
“Commercial operations of the RUC-ODC project are expected to contribute to Q4 earnings .... (their) stable operations are secured at maximum designed capacity,” company treasurer Shin Kwan-bae said in a call with analysts.
Shares of S-Oil were down 3.5 percent by 0207 GMT after the earnings announcement, while the wider market was 1.1 percent lower. ($1 = 1,138.0500 won)
Reporting By Jane Chung; editing by Richard Pullin and Sam Holmes