Japan retakes World No. 1 LNG importer position from China with Australian surge

Tuesday, 24 January 2023
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LNG News Editor: 

Japan has formally retaken from China its position as the World No. 1 LNG importer with more volumes coming from Australia, Russia and its Asian neighbours even as overall deliveries to Japanese terminals fell in 2022 and slumped in December.

While China’s estimated LNG imports dropped by 18.8 percent to 64.15 million tonnes, the official Japanese LNG import volumes for 2022 came to 71.99MT compared with 74.31MT in 2021, showing a fall of 3.1 percent, according to preliminary trade data from Japan's Finance Ministry.

Slowdowns

China had overtaken Japan in 2021 to become the world’s largest LNG importer with 78.93MT of imports, though has now slipped back because of the economic slowdown and Covid-19 restrictions affecting energy demand.

Japanese monthly LNG imports for December 2022 fell by 13.8 percent to 6.06MT from 7.03MT in the same month of 2021.

The November 2022 LNG shipments to Japan’s network of 37 terminals had also dropped to 5.55MT from 5.86MT in November 2021.

The costs of Japan’s December LNG cargoes increased by 36.8 percent to 817.52 billion yen ($6.32Bln) compared with 597.53Bln yen ($4.62Bln) in December 2021, the Ministry data showed.

Japan’s annual LNG costs jumped by 97.5 percent to 8.55 trillion yen ($64.34Bln) in 2022.

The Finance Ministry data showed that shipments of LNG increased from Australia, Asian countries and from Russia.

Russian imports

Imports from Russia increased by 4.6 percent on the year to 6.87MT from 6.56MT in 2021. The Russian deliveries cost 82.4 percent more than in the previous year with the 2022 bill from the Russians amounting to 677.5Bln yen ($5.24Bln).

Japan continued its deliveries of LNG from the Russian Far East export plant at Sakhalin Island even after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 as energy security outweighed the Western-led imposition of sanctions against Russia on the energy and financial fronts.

Deliveries from Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei increased by 9.2 percent to 17.93MT for the year.

Middle East cargo numbers for the year tumbled by 41.5 percent to 6.74MT from 12.20MT in the previous year.

LNG imports from the US dropped by 41.5 percent to 4.13MT compared with 7.07MT in 2021 when they had overtaken Russian delivery numbers for the first time.

The balance of Japan's LNG imports in 2022 came mainly from Australia and the spot market and with small volumes from Africa included. This delivery segment increased by more than 13 percent and amounted to 36.32MT versus 32.06MT in 2021.

While Japan’s annual LNG imports declined, shipments of thermal coal during the year increased by 2.5 percent to 115.3MT.

Nuclear

In its energy mix in 2022, Japan has also lagged in increasing nuclear power as previously planned.

Since the Fukushima disaster, only 10 reactors have been given the go-ahead to go back into operation compared with the 54 that were online in 2011 and which supplied around 30 percent of Japan’s energy needs.

A further 21 reactors have been decommissioned since 2011 and will never be re-started.

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