China set to top Japan as world’s biggest natural gas importer

Gas production
Updated 03 January 2018
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China set to top Japan as world’s biggest natural gas importer

SINGAPORE: Beijing’s crackdown on pollution has put China on track to overtake Japan this year as the world’s biggest importer of natural gas, used to replace dirtier coal.
China — already the biggest importer of oil and coal — is the world’s third biggest user of natural gas behind the United States and Russia, but has to import around 40 percent of its total needs as domestic production can’t keep up with demand.
Data compiled from the Thomson Reuters Eikon terminal indicates China’s 2017 imports of pipeline gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) will top 67 million tons, up by more than a quarter from a year earlier. LNG imports alone surged more than 50 percent.
The data, which includes LNG tanker arrivals to China and pipeline monthly import flow estimates, is preliminary as December figures are not yet available.
China still lags Japan, with gas annual imports of around 83.5 million tons, all as LNG, but its overall gas imports topped Japan’s in September and again in November, government data and shipping flows show.
Analysts say the trend is set and China should top Japan for the full year in 2018.
“Both LNG and pipeline imports will continue to increase in the next few years. We expect China to overtake Japan as the world’s largest gas importer in 2018,” said Miaoru Huang, Asia gas and LNG senior manager at energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie.
“But Japan will remain as the No.1 LNG importer till around 2028,” she added.
China last year started to move millions of households and many industrial facilities from coal to gas as part of efforts to clean its skies, sparking an unprecedented rally in overseas import orders.
China’s three biggest LNG suppliers are Australia, Qatar and Malaysia, while pipeline imports come from Central Asia and Myanmar. A pipeline connecting China to Russia is under construction.
Unlike established LNG importers which import the bulk of their cargoes under long-term contracts with fixed monthly volumes and a link to the oil market, many Chinese utilities buy LNG in the spot market when they need it at short notice, such as the current peak demand winter season.
As a result, Asian spot LNG prices have more than doubled since June to $11.20 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), their highest since November 2014, making LNG one of 2017’s strongest performing commodities.
China’s surging demand already pushed it past South Korea in 2017 as the world’s number 2 LNG importer.


Saudi Aramco to invest in refinery-petrochemical project in east China

Updated 18 October 2018
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Saudi Aramco to invest in refinery-petrochemical project in east China

  • This is the third such project in China that Saudi Aramco has set its sight on
  • Last month, Saudi Aramco signed a long-term deal with the Zhejiang project’s operator Zhejiang Rongsheng to supply crude oil

ZHOUSHAN, China/SINGAPORE: State oil giant Saudi Aramco signed an agreement on Thursday to invest in a refinery-petrochemical project in eastern China, part of its strategy to expand in downstream operations globally.
The memorandum of understanding between the company and Zhejiang province included plans to invest in a new refinery and co-operate in crude oil supply, storage and trading, according to details released by the Zhoushan government after a signing ceremony in the city south of Shanghai.
Zhejiang Petrochemical, 51 percent owned by textile giant Zhejiang Rongsheng Holding Group, is building a 400,000-barrels-per-day refinery and associated petrochemical facilities that was expected to start operations by the end of this year.
This is the third such project in China that Saudi Aramco has set its sight on as it seeks to lock in long-term outlets for its crude oil and produce fuel and petrochemicals to meet rising demand in Asia and cushion the risk of a slowdown in oil consumption.
Last month, Saudi Aramco signed a long-term deal with the Zhejiang project’s operator Zhejiang Rongsheng to supply crude oil.
The oil giant had not yet finalized the size of its stake in the project and still needed to complete due diligence, Aramco’s Senior Vice President of Downstream, Abdulaziz Al-Judaimi, said on the sidelines of the event.
Saudi Aramco expects to supply 170,000 barrels per day of Saudi crude to the refinery in Zhoushan when it starts operations, he said.
The first crude carrier supplying the refinery should arrive in December or January, depending on when the project starts, he added.
Aramco also owns part of the Fujian refinery-petrochemical plant with Sinopec and Exxon Mobil Corp, and has plans to build a 300,000-bpd refinery with China’s Norinco. It is also in talks with PetroChina to invest in a refinery in Yunnan.