China LNG Imports Hit Record as Memories of Freeze Linger

  • LNG shipments jumped by almost half in November: customs data
  • Supply bottlenecks last winter choked Beijing gas supplies

China’s liquefied natural gas imports surged to a record last month as the world’s third-biggest buyer boosted shipments to offset winter demand and avert shortages that struck cities including Beijing last year.

Inbound LNG shipments jumped 46.6 percent to 2.66 million tons in November from a year earlier, according to General Administration of Customs data released Wednesday. Natural gas imports via pipelines increased 7.3 percent to 1.96 million tons in the same period.

The rush to shore up supplies comes after Beijing last winter ordered heating to be cut to a low of 14 degrees Celsius on a supply shortage China National Petroleum Corp. said was caused by weather that delayed tanker unloadings. The National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s price regulator and economic planner, in October urged major natural gas suppliers including CNPC to implement plans to increase supply.

“LNG suppliers are seeking to avoid the gas shortages seen last winter,” Liu Guangbin, analyst with Shandong-based SCI International, said by phone. “We expect imports to remain high through out the winter months.”

China imports are set to hit another record this month, according to a Dec. 21 note from BMI Research. Demand from the country will keep the LNG market tight in the first quarter of next year before new supplies and warmer weather bring prices down in the second quarter, according to the analysts.

Beijing’s monthly gas consumption record in winter is six to eight times the minimum monthly usage in summer and the city’s daily consumption during winter increases by 3 million to 3.5 million cubic meters when the temperature falls by 1 degree Celsius, according to CNPC.

China Petrochemical Corp. expects gas sales to rise 27 percent during the winter demand period and the company plans to receive 21 LNG cargoes from December to February as it works to help alleviate supply bottlenecks in northern provinces, it said in an e-mail. CNPC said last month it was producing natural gas at peak capacity at four domestic sites and planned to boost supplies by 7 percent during the winter heating season.

Spot LNG in northeast Asia jumped to a nearly two-year high this month at $9.40 per million British thermal units, Energy Intelligence said in its online World Gas Intelligence report. Prices have more than doubled from a low this year in April.

China is forecast to experience the coldest winter since 2012, China Daily reported Nov. 1, citing Zheng Fei, a researcher at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of Chinese Academy of Sciences.

— With assistance by Jing Yang, and Dan Murtaugh

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