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China’s natural gas imports soar – customs

January-April purchases jumped by 21% compared to the same period in 2023

China’s imports of natural gas jumped by nearly 21% in the first four months of this year compared to the same period in 2023, customs data showed on Thursday. This comes as part of an overall increase in the country’s exports and imports in April after a contraction the previous month.

The world’s largest economy by purchasing power parity (PPP) imported 43 million tonnes of natural gas, an increase of 20.7% in January-April compared to the same period in 2023, Chinese customs said. April alone saw imports of 10.3mn tonnes, highlighting the continued momentum in gas imports.

According to Canadian outlet Natural Gas World, the surge in gas imports can be attributed to softer global LNG prices.

The average import price of gas dropped by 15% over the period, according to customs. China imports gas via pipeline and in liquified form, but the customs statement did not provide a breakdown of imports by type. The total value of gas purchased during the first four months of the year stood at over $21 billion.

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The Asian nation also imported 28.6% more refined oil products and 2% more crude over the reporting period compared to last year.

Shipments from China grew 1.5% year-on-year last month after falling 7.5% in March, Reuters noted. Imports for April increased 8.4%, reversing a 1.9% drop in March.

Chinese imports from Russia rose last month, as did those from the US and EU, despite a decline in exports to all three, CNBC reported, citing its own calculations.

Russia is the leading energy exporter to China. In 2023, the country’s purchases of oil from Russia were up 24% year-on-year, and those of LNG by 23%. Gas deliveries through the Power of Siberia pipeline increased 1.5 times last year to a record 22.7 billion cubic meters (bcm). 

Russia redirected its energy exports to Asia after losing customers in Europe due to Western sanctions over the Ukraine conflict.

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China also receives LNG from Australia and Qatar, and pipeline gas from Central Asia countries. Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq were China’s main sources of crude oil imports in 2023. 

According to Chinese customs, in the first four months of this year, business with the EU, the country’s second largest partner, decreased by 1.8%, accounting for 12.7% of foreign trade value. China’s largest trading partner was the ten-state Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which accounts for 15.8% of China’s total foreign trade value. The US is China’s third largest trading partner, accounting for 10.6% of total trade.


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