China became world’s largest LNG importer in 2021

08 April 2022

China became the world’s largest importer of liquefied natural gas in 2021, a study from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows. The study, based on analysis of data from Global Trade Tracker and China’s Administration of Customs.

Prior to 2021, Japan had been the largest importer of LNG for 51 years. China imported around 10.5 Bcf/d in 2021, up 1.7 Bcf/d from 2020 and 0.8 Bcf/d more than Japan, the EIA reported. Data from Japan’s Ministry of Finance showed that country averaged 9.7 Bcf/d in 2020 and 2021.

China began importing LNG in 2006 and its imports have grown steadily every year, except for 2015. China has steadily increased its LNG import capacity, which reached about 13.9 Bcf/d last year. That growth in capacity has enabled China’s LNG imports, the EIA reported.

By the end of 2022, China’s regasification capacity is expected to expand by an additional 2.8 Bcf/d, for a total of 16.7 Bcf/d, S&P Global Platts reported.

China imports natural gas through LNG and pipeline. Those imports accounted for 46% of the country’s total gas supply, which reached 35.5 Bcf/d in 2021, up from 15% in 2010. Last year, pipeline imports of natural gas supplied 16%, or 5.7 Bcf/d, of China’s natural gas needs, while LNG imports accounted for 30%, or 10.5% Bcf/d, the EIA reported.

China imported natural gas by pipeline from five countries: Turkmenistan (3.2 Bcf/d), Russia, (1.0 Bcf/d), Kazakhstan (0.6 Bcf/d), Uzbekistan (0.5 Bcf/d), and Myanmar (0.4 Bcf/d.) China imported LNG from 25 countries. Its six largest suppliers include Australia, United States, Qatar, Malaysia, Indonesia and Russia, which collectively provided 8.9 Bcf/d, or85% of LNG imports.

China’s imports and production of gas have risen as government policies have promoted coal to natural gas switching in an effort to reduce air pollution and meet emissions targets. In 2021, China’s domestic production reached 19.3 Bcf/d, about 54% of its total natural gas supply. Last month, the country released its 14th five-year plans, which set domestic natural gas production target at 22.3 Bcf/d by 2025, up 3.0 Bcf/d from 2021, the EIA reported.

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