China overtakes Japan as world’s largest LNG importer in January-June

China has overtaken Japan to become the world’s top importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the first half of this year.

Data from China’s General Administration of Customs showed on July 18 that China took 33.44 million tonnes of LNG during January-June, up by 7.2 percent compared to the same period last year.

According to the provisional data released by Japan’s Ministry of Finance on Thursday, Japan’s LNG imports dropped by 13.3 percent year-on-year in January-June to 32.62 million tonnes.

This is 0.82 million tonnes less then China imported during the same period.

Japan was the world’s top LNG importer in 2022, overtaking China, but both of the countries took fewer volumes when compared to the year before.

Japan’s June LNG imports down 22 percent

Japan’s LNG imports dropped by 22 percent in June to 4.53 million tonnes, the data shows.

China imported 5.96 million tonnes in June, a rise of 24.4 percent.

Japan’s coal imports for power generation also decreased in June when compared to the last year.

Coal imports were down by 17 percent to 7.25 million tonnes, and Japan paid about $1.64 billion for these imports, a drop of 42.3 percent when compared to the last year, the data shows.

LNG import bill drops

According to the preliminary data, the June LNG import bill of about $2.82 billion decreased by 33.2 percent when compared to the same month last year, while the January-June bill dropped by 2.7 percent to $24.8 billion.

State-run Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp (JOGMEC) did not publish both the contract-based and the arrival-based spot LNG price in January, February, March, April, May, and June as there were less than two companies that imported spot LNG.

The average price of spot LNG cargoes for delivery to Japan contracted in December was $30.8 per mmBtu.

However, spot LNG prices dropped considerably this year.

JOGMEC said in a report earlier this week that the “Northeast Asian assessed spot LNG price JKM for the previous week (July 10 – July 14) fell for four consecutive business days to the high $10s on July 13 from the high $11s the previous week due to ample inventories.″

On July 14, JKM rebounded to hit $11/MMBtu on the expectation of increased demand following the heat wave in Asia, it said.

According to a METI release on July 12, Japan’s LNG inventories for power generation totaled 2.07 million tonnes as of July 9, down 0.01 million tonnes from the previous week, down 0.21 million tonnes from the end of the same month of last year, and down 0.01 million tonnes from the average of the past five years.

LNG deliveries

As per LNG shipments going to Japan in June, deliveries from Asia decreased by 38.4 percent to 919,000 tonnes, the ministry’s data shows.

In the January-June period, deliveries from Asia dropped by 8.9 percent to 8.55 million tonnes.

Middle East LNG shipments dropped by 14.5 percent to 442,000 tonnes in June, while they dropped by 27.9 percent in January-June to 2.74 million tonnes.

Moreover, shipments from Russia dropped by 21.4 percent to 485,000 tonnes, while US deliveries rose by 115.7 percent to 518,000 tonnes in June.

During the first half, shipments from Russia dropped by 16.5 percent to 3.10 million tonnes, and US volumes rose by 0.8 percent to 2.11 million tonnes, the data shows,

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