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Cheap Spot Prices Boost China’s LNG Imports to Record High for February

China imported in February a record volume of LNG for the month, as buyers took advantage of plummeting spot prices in Asia amid ample inventories and tepid demand.  

Chinese LNG imports last month – the highest-ever for February – topped 5.5 million tons, rising by 15% compared to February last year, ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg showed on Friday.

In February 2024, Chinese LNG importers were on the lookout for cheaper supply of liquefied natural gas on the spot market as prices in North Asia halved from October levels and slid to a nearly three-year low by the middle of the month.   

China – the world’s top importer of the fuel after outstripping Japan, again – has returned to the spot market in search of cheaper LNG supply as prices tumble. Currently, spot LNG supply is competitive with local gas and oil products, according to Bloomberg’s sources. 

As natural gas inventories in Europe and Asia are at comfortable levels for a winter season, and demand is tepid in both continents, the average spot LNG price for April delivery into Northeast Asia tumbled in February, also in view of the end of the winter heating season.

As the winter season in the northern hemisphere is drawing to a close, spot LNG prices are expected to further slide into the spring, analysts have said.

In Asia, spot LNG prices for April delivery into northeast Asia slumped last week to the lowest in nearly three years—since April 2021, amid higher-than-usual inventories and weak Chinese buying due to the Lunar New Year holiday. Japan’s LNG demand is also lower than in previous years due to restarts of nuclear reactors, high gas inventories, and increased renewable power generation.

This week, the average LNG price for April delivery into north-east Asia was unchanged from last week, at $8.30 per million British thermal units (MMBtu), according to estimates from industry sources reported by Reuters on Friday.

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By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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