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LNG World Shipping

Chinese LNG imports reach 63% of Japanese level

Fri 23 Feb 2018 by Mike Corkhill

Chinese LNG imports reach 63% of Japanese level
Chinese terminals are dealing with an unprecedented level of LNG carrier traffic

A total of 5.18M tonnes of LNG was discharged at China’s 17 LNG import terminals in January 2018, 51.2% up on the volume recorded for the same month a year earlier.

The country’s growing appetite for LNG purchases has been spurred by a new government policy that promotes a switch from coal to natural gas as a fuel for residential heating and to meet the demand spike arising from the current cold winter weather.

Chinese LNG imports in January were equal to 63% of the volume discharged at terminals in Japan, the world’s largest buyer of LNG. Japan imported 8.26M tonnes of LNG during the month, a 0.5% year-on-year (YOY) decline.

China moved past South Korea to become the world’s second-largest LNG importer in 2017. Ships discharged 37.9M tonnes of LNG cargo at Chinese receiving facilities last year, a 48% YOY leap. South Korea imported 37.5M tonnes in 2017, a rise of 12.2% YOY.

China continues to distance itself from its near neighbour and rival in the LNG import stakes. South Korean terminals received 4.14M tonnes of LNG in January 2018, a 3.4% YOY drop.

Other notable LNG importers last month were India, with 1.78M tonnes, and Spain, with 1.2M tonnes. India’s cargo volume was 47% up on the January 2017 total while Spain’s was 9.5% ahead YOY.

India will be a fast-growing LNG market in the years ahead. Although domestic natural gas production is in decline, the country plans to more than double the share of natural gas in its energy mix to 15% by 2022, from about 6.5% now.

January 2018 import figures for Taiwan are not available yet but the country purchased 1.39M tonnes in December 2017, a 12% YOY jump and a volume that boosted the nation’s LNG purchases for 2017 to 16.8M tonnes.

Back in China, several of the country’s 17 LNG receiving terminals have been operating well above nameplate capacity since the winter chill set in towards the end of 2017. The average utilisation rate for the countrywide complement of terminals last year was 66%.

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