Japan’s liquefied natural gas imports dropped 8.1 percent in 2023, and the country lost its position as the world’s top LNG importer to China.
According to the provisional data released by the country’s Ministry of Finance, Japan imported 66.15 million tonnes of LNG last year.
This compares to 71.99 million tonnes in 2022, which marked a decline compared to the year before.
LNG imports in December rose 7.2 percent year-on-year to 6.49 million tonnes. They also rose compared to 5.33 million tonnes in November.
Japan’s coal imports for power generation decreased 8.1 percent in December to 8.31 million tonnes, while coal imports dropped 11.9 percent to 101.54 million tonnes 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 recent report 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 are expected to decline below 60 million tonnes in FY2024.
LNG import bill down
Japan paid about $44.2 billion for LNG imports in 2023, a decrease of 22.6 percent compared to 2022.
According to the data, the December LNG import bill of about $4.43 billion decreased 19.6 percent compared to the same month last year.
State-run Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp (JOGMEC) only published the arrival-based monthly spot LNG price in December. It did not release the contract-based price.
The average price of spot LNG cargoes that were delivered in Japan within the month of December regardless of the month when the contract was made was $16.9/MMBtu.
JOGMEC also said in a report this week that the “Northeast Asian assessed spot LNG price JKM for the previous week (January 15 – January 19) fell to mid $9s on January 19 from low $10s the previous week as inventories remain high with weak demand.”
METI announced on January 17 that Japan’s LNG inventories for power generation as of January 14 stood at 2.58 million tonnes, up 0.07 million tonnes from the previous week.
As per LNG shipments going to Japan in 2023, deliveries from Asia decreased 10.2 percent to 16.1 million tonnes, the ministry’s data shows.
Middle East LNG shipments decreased 11.7 percent to 5.95 million tonnes in 2023.
Moreover, shipments from Russia dropped 10.7 percent to 6.13 million tonnes, while US deliveries increased 33.6 percent to 5.52 million tonnes in 2023.
The data does not include spot volumes.
China overtakes Japan
Japan was the world’s top LNG importer in 2022, overtaking China, but both of the countries took fewer volumes compared to the year before.
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.
This means that China imported some 5.17 million tonnes of LNG more than Japan in 2023.