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China overtakes Japan to become world’s top natural gas importer

China has recently overtaken Japan to become the world’s biggest importer of natural gas and will likely keep that crown as pipeline and liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructure grow, according to an analysis by S&P Global Platts.

In the first ten months of this year, China imported a total of 72.06 million metric tons of natural gas, a 33.1-percent increase compared to January-October 2017.

China’s natural gas imports in January-October this year were higher than all of its natural gas imports of 68.57 million tons in 2017, Platts notes, citing Chinese customs data. During the same period, Japan’s imports of LNG stood at 67.36 million tons.

According to official data from Japan and China collected by Platts, China first overtook Japan in April this year, when it imported a total of 6.818 million tons of natural gas, higher than Japan’s imports of 6.079 million tons of LNG.

Last year, the Chinese government drive to switch millions of residents from coal to natural gas resulted in China surpassing South Korea to become the world’s second-largest LNG importer behind Japan.

China’s natural gas imports are set to rise with the construction of new LNG import terminals and the Power of Siberia pipeline from Russia, expected to come into service in late 2019.

China is raising its domestic natural gas production, but it is importing and is expected to continue to import growing volumes of gas as domestic production growth can’t keep up with surging demand.

According to the Gas 2018 report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), due to the policy to reduce air pollution, China’s natural gas demand is expected to grow by 60 percent through 2023. China is projected to account for 37 percent of the global growth in natural gas consumption between 2017 and 2023, more than any other country, the IEA said.

The share of imports in China’s natural gas supply is seen rising from 39 percent to 45 percent by 2023, the agency forecasts.

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