PetroChina Official Forecasts Record China LNG Imports in 2024

(Reuters) — China's liquefied natural gas imports could hit record levels in 2024, a PetroChina official forecast on Wednesday.

The world's top importer of the super-chilled fuel is seen shipping between 78-80 million metric tons of LNG this year, with the industrial and commercial sectors driving demand, Zhang Yaoyu, global head of LNG and new energies for PetroChina International, said at an industry conference in Bangkok.

Zhang's forecast would be a 9-12% rise from the 71.2 million metric tons imported in 2023, according to China's customs data.

China imported a record 78.8 million metric tons in 2021.

"Based on the first quarter data, that's achievable," said Zhang.

He said China has shipped nearly 20 million tons of LNG already in the first quarter of this year, with the chemicals, paper, steel and cement industries driving demand growth.

"Besides, we haven't seen winter (demand) yet."

For power plants in China, however, LNG prices would need to drop to below $6 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) for consumption to pick up, added Zhang, who spoke to Reuters on the sidelines of the Future Energy Asia conference.

Asia spot LNG prices had traded as low as around $8/mmBtu in February this year, its lowest in nearly three years, amid weak demand in Asia and Europe. But hotter weather and supply concerns have since pushed prices up to $10.50/mmBtu.

Zhang said he expects coal to support grid stability in China and did not see greater LNG adoption in power generation amid rising renewable energy use.

"You can't solely rely on renewable power. The reliability, that's not going to be easy. But having said that, the base is still coal. So (in the) short term, no worries."

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