Demand may push China’s LNG imports to record high

China is on course to import around 80 million tonnes of LNG this year. — China Daily

SHANGHAI: Fuelled by strong demand from the industrial sector amid an economic recovery and industrial decarbonisation, China’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports could hit a record in 2024, company executives and experts say.

China, the world’s top importer of the super-chilled fuel, is on course to import around 80 million tonnes of LNG this year, driven by increased demand from the industrial and commercial sectors, said Zhang Yaoyu, global head of LNG and new energies for PetroChina International under China National Petroleum Corp.

China’s LNG imports rose 12.6% year-on-year in 2023 to 71.32 million tonnes, overtaking Japan as the world’s largest LNG importer.

This was a significant rise compared to 63.44 million tonnes of LNG imported in 2022.

China has shipped nearly 20 million tonnes of LNG already during the first three months, with the chemicals, paper, steel and cement industries driving growth in demand.

This makes the estimated 80 million tonnes achievable, said Zhang.

Li Ziyue, an analyst with BloombergNEF, said China has become the dominant force in LNG worldwide amid the country’s energy transition.

Gas consumption in the transport sector, seen as a relatively clean bridge fuel, is projected to experience the fastest growth due to the cost-effectiveness of natural gas commercial vehicles, she said.

The country’s state-owned enterprises have also led China’s expansion of its capacity to handle LNG.

Private companies, meanwhile, are playing an increasingly active role in building LNG terminals, she said.

BloombergNEF said it expected China’s base-case natural gas demand in 2024 to increase 8% year-on-year to 421 billion cubic metres.

It added that LNG imports are estimated to rise 17% annually to 81 million tonnes this year. — China Daily/ANN

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