China’s imports of liquefied natural gas from the US jumped last month as the country snatched up a record volume of the fuel to meet surging demand for heating and industrial use.
Shipments from the US totalled 407,325 metric tonnes in November, up from nothing the same month a year earlier and 57% from October, placing one of the world’s newest LNG sellers as the third-biggest supplier to China, behind stalwarts Qatar and Australia.
The world’s largest energy user is struggling with a winter natural gas shortage after demand surged this year amid President Xi Jinping’s fight against smog, which has focused on cutting the use of coal in favour of the cleaner-burning fuel. China’s rising need has helped push spot LNG prices to $10.90 per millions British thermal units, the highest in three years, according to industry publication World Gas Intelligence.
“The US has benefited from a temporary gap that has arisen this year with Chinese gas demand surging,” said Sophie Lu, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Beijing. “Since October, China has accounted for a quarter of US shipments of LNG exports, especially buying uncontracted volumes from the spot market.”
Increasing US oil and gas supplies to China has been a goal for President Donald Trump’s administration, with energy dominating the $250bn in deals unveiled between the countries during his visit to Beijing last month. Those included agreements between Cheniere Energy Inc and China National Petroleum Corp, as well as China Petrochemical Corp, known as Sinopec Group, and Alaska Gasline Development Corp.
China’s natural gas use could almost triple from last year to about 600bn cubic metres by 2040, and it could overtake the US as the world’s largest consumer by 2050, according to Sanford C Bernstein & Co.
The data also showed that Australia remained China’s largest LNG supplier in November at 1.47mn tonnes, up 12% from the same month last year. Other major sellers included Qatar, up 33% year-on-year to 815,118 tonnes; Indonesia, up 40% to 336,273 and Malaysia down 4% to 263,341.
China this winter has relied more on natural gas sold in liquefied form delivered aboard tankers than it has on pipeline-delivered supplies. Shipments from Turkmenistan, the biggest supplier via piped gas, totalled 1.59mn tonnes, up 11% on-year but a 7% slide from the previous month.