China's Shift to Gas from Coal Drives Record LNG Imports

(Reuters) China's LNG imports rose to a record high in January due to increased residential heating demand after the country's shift to gas heating from coal, customs data showed.

January LNG imports rose 27.8 percent from a year earlier to 6.58 million tons, the highest since December, when they had also reached a new high, the General Administration of Customs said.

China's total January natural gas imports, including LNG and gas brought in by pipeline, rose by 26.8 percent from a year earlier to 9.81 million tons, also a record high.

Surging imports were partially driven by consumption from residential users in northern China after the government's drive to replace coal heating with gas, despite falling demand from the industrial sector amid a warmer-than-usual winter.

The country shifted an additional 3 million more homes this winter to gas, which is expected to create an additional 4.53 Bcm of demand during the Nov. 15-March 15 winter heating period.

Industrial gas demand in northern China is showing signs of a sharp slowdown as small manufacturers shut their doors or buy less gas, unable to cope with a drop-off in export orders and costs related to Beijing's pollution control and reform measures.

China's National Offshore Oil Corp resold at least one LNG cargo in January, during what should be the peak demand month, citing this year's warmer weather.

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