China imports record LNG volumes in Dec, overtakes Japan for second month
By Jessica Jaganathan
SINGAPORE, Jan 7 (Reuters) - China imported a record high monthly volume of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in December, overtaking Japan as the world's top importer of the fuel for a second consecutive month, ship tracking data from Refinitiv Eikon showed on Tuesday.
China imported 7.198 million tonnes of LNG in December, up nearly 16% from its November imports, while Japan shipped in 6.574 million tonnes in December, up nearly 7% from the previous month, the data showed.
China overtook Japan's volumes of LNG imports for the first time in November, but extended its lead in December, according to the data.
Both countries have yet to release official monthly data and shipping data fluctuates.
While Japan still maintains its lead as the world's leading LNG importer in terms of annual volumes, it is expected to cede that position to China by 2022, analysts from Wood Mackenzie have said.
Japan's energy demand has been falling due to an ageing population and competition from other sources, such as nuclear power, while China's gas demand has soared because of a government push for coal-to-gas regasification to cut pollution.
Still, the increase in China's LNG volumes in December is probably due to more term volumes committed by Chinese buyers, which started in 2019, and spot volumes bought earlier in the year to meet winter heating demand, rather than a sudden rise in domestic demand, traders have said.
Competition from cheaper coal and a ramp-up of gas flows from Russia to China through the new "Power of Siberia" pipeline could also slow the pace of LNG imports this year.
(Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
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