Japan’s LNG imports soar by over 21 percent as stock rebuild continues after high winter usage

Tuesday, 23 March 2021
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Japan’s liquefied natural gas imports soared by more than 21 percent last month, backed by a doubling of US supplies and more cargoes from Asia and Russia as stocks were rebuilt after the high winter season usage.

The February 2021 shipments amounted to 8.06 million tonnes, 21.5 percent higher than in February 2020 when they had amounted to 6.64MT, according to the preliminary figures from the Ministry of Finance.

The shipments equalled the volume received in January 2021 of 8.06MT, or around 118 cargoes, which had been an increase of 7.3 percent on January 2020.

Annual shipments of LNG to the Japanese import network of 37 facilities came to 74.46MT in 2020, down 3.7 percent compared with the 77.32MT received in 2019.

LNG imports by the world’s largest buyer of the fuel have continued to drop in recent years. The 2019 total of 77.32MT was 6.7 percent lower than the 82.85MT logged in 2018.

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

Japan’s shipments in February 2021 cost 408.22 billion yen ($3.73Bln), a surge of 15.9 percent on the 352.14Bln ($3.23Bln) spent in February 2020 when volumes were also less.

Japan was expected to have steady imports in the early months of 2021 as it re-builds its stocks used in the colder weather of winter.

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

Japan’s thermal coal imports in February 2021 came to 9.82MT, an increase of 7.3 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.

Asia’s February LNG cargo deliveries to Japan from nations such as Malaysia and Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Brunei amounted to 1.95MT, an increase of 17.6 percent versus February 2020. Middle East shipments from countries like Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman dropped in February by 8.7 percent to 1.20MT.

Shipments from Russia last month, mostly from the Sakhalin Island plant in the Far East, rose 20.2 percent to 718,000 tonnes.

However, US cargo deliveries to Japan surpassed those of Russia again and amounted to 948,000 tonnes, down on January’s total of 953,000 tonnes, though double the volumes logged in February 2020.

During 2020, Japan was receiving more US cargoes as additional capacity came on stream on the Gulf Coast and shipments grew by 27.8 percent from 2019 to 4.72MT.

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