China takes over from Japan as leading importer of LNG
China is on the verge of taking over from Japan – in anticipation of year-end 2021 indicators – as the largest consumer of liquefied natural gas (LNG). From January to September, China imported 80.5 billion cu.m. of LNG, while Japan’s import figures stood at 78.1 billion cu.m (in regasified form), according to data from Refinitiv.

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By way of comparison: In 2020, China imported 91.8 bcm  of LNG, compared to Japan’s 102.6 bcm.

    The increase in imports Is linked to a great extent to a jump in energy demand as the Chinese economy recovers from the effects of the Covid pandemic.

     China’s GDP recorded growth of 2.3 % in 2020. This year HIS Market predicts growth will reach 8.4 %. And, as a consequence, over the first nine months of 2021, electricity consumption in China rose overall by 12.9 %, and in the more economically developed east, that figure reached 13.6, according to the Chinese Electricity Council.

     Coal retains the dominant role in the structure of China’s electricity generation – in 2020, according to data from the BP Statistical Review, it accounted for 63 % of all power generation, while natural gas accounted for only 3 % and all other sources made up 34 %. The leap in demand for energy could only lead to a jump in demand for coal.

     But an Australian embargo on coal shipments hindered China from meeting demand. In 2020, shipments of Australian coal to China totalled 79.3 million tonnes, while in the first nine months of 2021, that total was reduced to 3.4 million tonnes. And the greater part of that was made up of coking coal, used in steelmaking.

    As a result, China was obliged to increase gas imports. Part of the shipments were provided through the Power of Siberia gas transport system which, in the first six months of 2021, shipped more than all the previous year (4.6 bcm compared to 4.1 bcm, in accordance with Gazprom’s data under standard Russian accounting systems).

    The increase in LNG shipments, in percentage terms, was a little more modest. In the first nine months of 2020, China imported 64 bcm of LNG, compared to 80.5 bcm in the same period of 2021 — a 24.8 % increase. But that was enough to overtake Japan in terms of the import indicator.


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October 2021