Japan’s LNG imports jump amid stocks rebuild while thermal coal shipments for power also rise

Tuesday, 02 March 2021
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Japan’s liquefied natural gas imports jumped by 7.3 percent last month, backed by a more than doubling of US supplies, underpinned by cargoes from Australia and the spot market, while thermal coal shipments surge by almost 11 percent.

Shipments of LNG to the Japanese import network amounted to 8.06 million tonnes in January, or around 118 cargoes, an increase on the 7.51MT received in January 2020, according to the preliminary data from the Finance Ministry.

Japan had imported 7.72MT of LNG in December, its highest total of the year, while imports in November 2020 had come to 6.02MT, less than the 6.27MT received in the same month of 2019.

Annual shipments of LNG to the Japanese import network amounted to 74.46 million tonnes in 2020, down 3.7 percent compared with the 77.32MT received in 2019.

The January 2021 shipments at 8.06MT were still short of the most recent record set in January 2017 of 8.30MT.

Japan’s shipments in January 2021 cost 365.77 billion yen ($3.45Bln), a drop of 7.3 percent on the 394.52Bln ($3.72Bln) spent in January 2020 when volumes were also less.

LNG imports by the world’s largest buyer of the fuel are continuing to decline and the 2019 total of 77.32MT was 6.7 percent lower than the 82.85MT logged in 2018.

However, Japan is expected to have steady imports in the next few months of 2021 as it re-builds its stocks used in the colder weather season weather.

The second-largest LNG importer, China, is poised to overtake Japan in the next few years and its shipments in 2020 came to 67.13MT, just 7.33MT behind the latest Japanese total.

LNG competes mainly with thermal coal for power generation in Japan and as the nation’s nuclear power generation was still at a very low level.

Japan’s thermal coal imports in January 2021 came to 10.67MT, an increase of 10.8 percent on the shipments received in January 2020.

Nuclear power usage in Japan is still much reduced to less than a handful on line compared with the 50 units operating in 2011.

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