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China Hikes Natural Gas and Coal Imports as Prices Halve From 2023

China has boosted its imports of coal and natural gas so far this year, as it looks to stockpile fuel for the power plants ahead of the summer amid international prices that were half last year’s levels in the first four months of 2024.

Chinese imports of natural gas jumped by 21% between January and April compared to a year earlier, while imports of coal rose by 13%, according to data reported by Bloomberg on Monday.

The Asian benchmark LNG prices averaged a little over $9 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) in the first quarter of 2024, compared to an average LNG price for delivery into north Asia of $18 per MMBtu in the first quarter of last year, per Bloomberg’s estimates.

The price of coal has also slumped, to an average of $127 per ton for the Newcastle coal futures in Australia, a key exporter of coal, in the first quarter of 2024. That’s nearly half compared to the average price of $236 per ton in January-March 2023.

China’s increased coal imports so far this year are defying earlier expectations that Beijing would see flat coal purchases in 2024.

In March, an executive at China’s state-run utility Guangdong Energy Group said that Chinese coal imports this year were expected at around the record levels of 2023.

However, data showed last month that China’s seaborne coal imports jumped by 17% in the first quarter.

Coal output in China has wobbled this year after authorities in the northern province of Shanxi, the top coal-producing region, ordered in February miners to reduce production and carry out safety inspections between March and May, following several fatal incidents at mines in China in recent months.


Weaker coal prices and demand and mine closures due to safety checks are set to reduce coal output in the Shanxi province by 4% this year, for the first time in seven years, according to a plan announced by the provincial government.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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