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Japan’s January LNG Imports Slump to 15-Year Low   

Restarts of nuclear reactors, high gas inventories, and increased renewables power generation dragged Japan’s LNG imports in January to the lowest level for the month since 2009, vessel-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg showed on Friday.  

Last month, Japan imported just 6 million tons of LNG, the lowest level for the month of January in 15 years, as demand for the super-chilled fuel has declined in recent years.

Japan’s surge in LNG imports after the Fukushima disaster in 2011 and the shutdown of the country’s nuclear power fleet has made the resource-poor major Asian economy the world’s top importer of gas cargoes.

Last year, Japan ceded the top spot to China, as nuclear reactors in Japan are gradually returning to service after thorough inspections. Moreover, Japan – and all other major developed economies – have stepped up energy and gas conservation efforts since the energy crisis that began in late 2021 and was further worsened in 2022 following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The relatively high inventories at the end of last year also contributed to slow LNG imports as some importers even resold cargoes to other destinations, per Bloomberg’s data.  

Last year, Japan’s LNG imports slumped to the lowest level in 14 years, after falling by 8% compared to 2022, official Japanese data showed at the end of January.

In 2023, Japan imported 66.15 million metric tons of LNG, down by 8.1% year-on-year and the lowest import volumes since 2009, according to provisional data from the Japanese Ministry of Finance.

The value of the imports in Japanese yen slumped by 22.6% last year, amid lower imports and a decline in spot LNG prices, especially at the end of 2023, compared to the records seen in 2022 and early 2023.

In recent years, Japan has restarted several nuclear power plants and has boosted renewable electricity generation, which allowed it to import lower volumes of LNG than a decade ago.

According to Reuters estimates, Japan’s annual LNG imports hit a record high of 88.5 million tons in 2014.

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By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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