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China’s Natural Gas Imports Surge As Economy Recovers

Natural gas imports into China rose 22.4 percent on the year in the first four months of this year to 39.45 million metric tons, Natural Gas World reports, citing customs data.

April natural gas imports alone were 31 percent higher on the year and 16.2 percent higher on March, the data also revealed.

China has seen a surge in gas demand as its economy rebounded after the pandemic, with the upward trend likely to remain in place for the observable future, adding 10 percent this year alone, according to Chinese state energy majors PetroChina and Sinopec.

According to PetroChina, the country’s demand for natural gas will hit 350-356 billion cubic meters this year. Sinopec has almost identical numbers, expecting gas demand at 350-360 billion cubic meters. According to the major, the demand would come from power utilities and the industrial sector.

In 2020, China consumed 326.2 billion cubic meters of natural gas, of which 192.5 billion cubic meters came from domestic production. This was almost 10 percent higher than the domestic production figure for 2019. Imports also rose in 2020, by 5.3 percent to 140.3 billion cubic meters.

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China is among the world’s top natural gas importers, along with Japan and South Korea, and therefore a prime target for gas exporters. Earlier this year, amid extra-low winter temperatures, PetroChina doubled the amount of Russian gas it receives via the Power of Siberia pipeline to 28.8 million cubic meters daily over the first two months of the year. Sinopec, for its part, ordered 30 cargos of liquefied natural gas for the period to make sure there was an adequate supply of the fuel.

Domestic output of natural gas is also on the rise as the country seeks to reduce its substantial dependence on imports but boosting output to levels of self-sufficiency, for now, remains a distant prospect.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on May 07 2021 said:
    For a country whose economy grew at 18.3% in the first quarter of this year and is projected by the IMF to grow at 8.3% this year, China needs to import huge volumes of gas and oil.

    No wonder then that China’s natural gas demand is projected to hit 350-360 billion cubic meters this year or 10% higher than 2020 with crude oil imports projected to hit 13-14 million barrels a day (mbd) compared with average 11.67 mbd in 2020.

    By the end of this year, China is projected to overtake Japan to become the world’s largest importer of LNG.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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