…biggest drop since 2009
18 February 2016, Osaka — Japan’s liquefied natural gas, LNG, imports fell 14.1 percent in January, its biggest drop in nearly seven years, as utilities curbed purchases on slowing demand and nuclear power output picked up after the Fukushima disaster in 2011 drove LNG imports to record highs.
Customs-cleared LNG imports by the world’s top consumer last month fell to 7.245 million tonnes from a year earlier, marking a fifth straight month of declines, preliminary trade data from the Ministry of Finance showed on Thursday.
LNG imports fell in 2015 for the first time since the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and are set to fall further in the coming years as nuclear output gradually rises, industry analysts have said.
Asian spot LNG prices remain low, at around $5.50 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) for March delivery, amid mounting supply overhang, contributing to a more than halving in costs for LNG purchases.
Imports of thermal coal for power generation also declined 13.2 percent in January to 9.72 million tonnes, the data showed.
Japan, the world’s fourth-biggest crude oil buyer, imported 3.44 million barrels per day (16.93 million kilolitres) of crude oil in January, down 3.4 percent from the same period last year.
Two nuclear operators, Kyushu Electric Power and Kansai Electric Power, have resumed operations at three reactors after stringent safety screening imposed after the Fukushima disaster, and have projected their first profits in five years.
Kyushu Electric, which restarted two reactors last year, said it sees a 78 billion yen ($684.87 million) boost to its finances in January-March by reducing fuel costs and power purchases from rivals.
Kansai Electric, which is aiming to restart a second reactor later this month, said it is projecting a 3.6 percent reduction in fossil fuel consumption to 3.74 million tonnes in LNG equivalent in January-March.
*Osamu Tsukimori; Editing – Biju Dwarakanath – Reuters