Japan’s LNG imports continue to drop

Japan’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports dropped for the third month in a row in March, according to the provisional data released by the country’s Ministry of Finance.

The country’s LNG imports decreased by 3 percent year-on-year in March to 5.55 million tonnes, the data shows.

LNG imports dropped compared to 6.02 million tonnes in the previous month, and 6.1 million tonnes in January.

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

Coal imports were down by 10.4 percent to 7.63 million tonnes, and Japan paid about $1.16 billion for these imports, a drop of 50.8 percent compared to the last year, the data shows.

During the fiscal year April 2023-March 2024, Japan’s LNG imports decreased by 8 percent to 64.8 million tonnes, while coal imports for power generation dropped by 13.4 percent to 98.1 million tonnes, the data shows.

LNG import bill down

The March LNG import bill of about $3.44 billion decreased by 9.5 percent compared to the same month last year, while it dropped by 31.7 percent to $39.1 billion during April 2023-March 2024.

Last week, state-run Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp (JOGMEC) published the first contract-based monthly spot LNG price since October 2023.

“The average price of spot LNG cargoes for delivery to Japan contracted in March 2024 and scheduled to be delivered from the month onward (contract-based price) was $9.3/MBtu,” JOGMEC said in its preliminary report.

The average price of spot LNG cargoes that were delivered in Japan within the month of March regardless of the month when the contracts were made (arrival-based price) was not disclosed.

JOGMEC did not publish both the contract-based and the arrival-based monthly spot LNG prices in the first two months of this year as there were less than two companies that imported spot LNG.

The firm also said in a report this week that the Northeast Asian assessed spot LNG price JKM for the previous week (April 8– April 13) increased to mid-$10s on April 12 from mid-$9s the previous weekend.”

“The price trended upper on the back of buying interest toward June and rising geopolitical tensions by Russian attacks on Ukrainian storage sites April 11,” it said.

LNG inventories

METI previously announced that Japan’s LNG inventories for power generation as of April 7 stood at 1.61 million tonnes, up 0.13 million tonnes from the previous week. Inventories were at the same levels on April 14, according to METI.

Japan’s LNG inventories for power generation were at 1.95 million tonnes as of March 3, 1.71 million tonnes as of March 10, 1.60 million tonnes as of March 17, 1.52 million tonnes as of March 24, and 1.48 million tonnes as of March 31, the data shows.

Deliveries to Japan

As per LNG shipments going to Japan in March, deliveries from Asia decreased by 17.6 percent to 1.32 million tonnes, the ministry’s data shows.

Middle East LNG shipments dropped by 5.7 percent to 622,000 tonnes in March.

Moreover, shipments from Russia increased by 35.7 percent to 577,000 tonnes, while US deliveries rose by 21.5 percent to 325,000 tonnes in March.

China has overtaken Japan to become the world’s top importer of LNG last year.

China’s LNG imports rose 12.6 percent to about 71.32 million tonnes in the January-December period.

The country imported some 5.17 million tonnes of LNG more than Japan in 2023.

Japan’s power utilities such as Kansai Electric increased their nuclear power utilization rate in 2023.

The Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ) said in a report earlier this year that due to the restart of some nuclear power plants and an increase in solar photovoltaics capacity, coupled with a rise in coal-fired power generation capacity, Japan’s LNG imports were expected to decline below 60 million tonnes in FY2024.

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