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China May See First Gas Consumption Fall in 20 Years

State energy officials say total gas demand is likely to fall 1% this year, according to a researcher with CNOOC. That would be the first annual decline since at least 2002

Chinese energy officials say total gas demand is likely to fall 1% this year, which would be the first annual decline since at least 2002.
LNG storage tanks are seen at PetroChina's terminal in Dalian, Liaoning province, July 16, 2018. File photo: Aizhu Chen, Reuters.


China could this year see its first drop in natural gas consumption in two decades amid its economic slowdown.

State energy officials said on Thursday that demand this winter looks set to rise more modestly than in previous years.

Total gas demand is likely to fall 1% this year to 363.6 billion cubic metres, according to Li Jianping, a researcher with China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC).

That would be the first annual decline since at least 2002.

Gas consumption this winter is pegged at between 168 to 190 billion cubic metres, a wide range forecast due to uncertainty over weather conditions and economic recovery, officials told a seminar hosted by state-backed Chongqing Gas Exchange that was live streamed.

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Japan May be Top LNG Importer

China is set to hand back to Japan this year its title as the world’s largest importer of liquefied natural gas as protracted Covid curbs and high import costs hampered demand, easing the pressure on tight global supplies amid the Ukraine crisis.

While slashing high-priced LNG imports, companies are set to ramp up domestic production, fill up gas storage facilities and increase imports of cheaper pipeline gas from Russia and Central Asia.

“Our winter supply policy is stabilizing piped gas imports from Central Asia, boosting volumes from Russia and increasing domestic production,” Li Wei, a gas market executive with top state giant PetroChina, said.

The firm, the country’s largest gas producer and importer, has secured 109.5 billion cubic metres of supplies for this winter, including 59 bcm from domestic fields, Li said.

Li Wei predicted China’s winter gas use at a higher range of 187-190 bcm.

The supply pool of 109.5 bcm, which includes domestic production and imports, compared with 106.2 bcm the previous winter, representing a modest increase of 3%, down from 8% growth recorded in the 2021 winter over 2020.


Sinopec Replenishing Import Terminals

Zhao Kui, a gas marketing executive at Sinopec, said Sinopec is pumping at full capacity from its main fields – Yuanba and Puguang – in southwestern Sichuan basin after completing regular maintenance.

Sinopec is also replenishing LNG inventories at two large import terminals in Tianjin and Qingdao with storage levels at 80% or above by mid-November, Li added.

China has so far established gas storage capacity of 26 bcm, equivalent to 7% of total demand, to cope with peak winter heating demand, said Li Jianping, the CNOOC researcher.

Companies have also set up contingency plans to cut supplies to the so-called “disreputable users” – mostly industrial and commercial users – to prioritise residential consumers during cold spells, officials said.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard




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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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