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Japan’s LNG Imports Drop to 14-Year Low

Liquefied natural gas imports in Japan, one of the world’s top LNG buyers, slumped in 2023 to the lowest level in 14 years, after falling by 8% compared to 2022, official Japanese data showed on Wednesday.

Last year, Japan imported 66.15 million metric tons of LNG, down by 8.1% year-on-year and the lowest import volumes since 2009, according to provisional data from the Japanese Ministry of Finance.

The value of the imports in Japanese yens slumped by 22.6% last year, amid lower imports and a decline in spot LNG prices, especially at the end of 2023, compared to the records seen in 2022 and early 2023.

Japan’s LNG imports jumped by 33.6% in volumes from the United States, while purchases from other Asian countries, the Middle East, and Russia fell, according to the ministry data.

Japan, which was the world’s top buyer of LNG, was ousted by China from that spot in 2023.

In recent years, Japan has restarted several nuclear power plants and has boosted renewable electricity generation, which allowed it to import lower volumes of LNG than a decade ago.

According to Reuters estimates, Japan’s annual LNG imports hit a record high of 88.5 million tons in 2014.

Asian demand for LNG has rebounded this winter season, following weaker-than-expected import demand in the 2022/2023 season, while gas inventories in the region are relatively high. This would help the biggest Asian buyers, China, Japan, and South Korea, weather global LNG supply risks this heating season, analysts say.

Japan’s LNG imports were estimated to have jumped in December 2023 to the highest level since January 2023.

Despite the surge in LNG imports, Asia’s spot LNG prices continue to drop, falling below the threshold of $10 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) last week, for the first time in nearly eight months, per industry sources cited by Reuters.

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By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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