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China’s natural gas demand growth in 2020 seen slowest in 4 years

China’s natural gas demand in 2020 is expected to grow at its slowest pace in four years due to a faltering economy, according to a think-tank at the country’s largest energy producer, China National Petroleum Corp.

Slower demand growth in China would drag down global LNG markets already grappling with oversupply and low spot prices.

In its annual outlook report released on Monday, the think tank forecast natural gas consumption to rise 8.6% this year to 330 billion cubic metres.

That would mark the slowest demand growth since 2016. CNPC expects 2019 gas consumption up 9.6% year-on-year at 304 bcm.

“Chinese economy is in the process of structural upgrade while macro-economy will continue to bear pressure. Also, the coal-to-electricity and the use of clean coal will slow down the growth of gas demand,” CNPC Research said.

China’s natural gas output would hit 187.5 bcm in 2020, up 8.2% year-on-year, boosted by Beijing’s push to increase domestic production, it said, adding that imports of the fuel is expected to reach 150 bcm, up 9.3% from a year ago.

The imports will partly come from Russia, driven by the landmark Siberian gas pipeline which was launched in December.

In 2020, LNG imports are expected to rise 9.5% year-on-year to around 94 bcm.

The think-tank also expects China’s LNG receiving capacity to exceed 88 million tonnes per year.

China overtook Japan as the world’s top importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in November and December on a monthly basis, but on an annual basis Japan is still the No. 1 LNG importer worldwide.

The national’s crude oil output is forecasted to rise only 1.57% from 2019 levels to around 194 million tonnes in 2020,the CNPC outlook shows. But apparent crude oil demand is expected to rise 3.6% year-on-year to 719 million tonnes in 2020.

Crude oil imports are forecast to rise 4.4% to 525 million tonnes.

Having added 900,000 barrels per day of crude processing capacity in 2019, China is expected to add 27 million tonnes, or around 540,000 bpd of new refining capacity this year, which would worsen fuel supply in the country and put pressure on refineries to sell overseas.

“In 2020, oversupply of refined oil products will be intensified, and (we expect the) exports quota for refined oil products to continue increasing,” CNPC Research said.

China has raised the volume of its first batch of 2020 fuel export quotas by 53% from a year earlier to 27.99 million tonnes.

China’s total fuel demand is forecast to rise 2.3% to 393 million tonnes in 2020, while refined products exports is expected to surge 18.1% to 64.5 million tonnes in 2020.

The country’s crude throughput is forecast to rise 3.9% year-on-year to around 675 million tonnes in 2020.

China’s total exports of refined oil products are forecast to rise 18.1% to exceed 64.5 million tonnes in 2020.

In 2020, gasoline exports are expected to rise 35.39% year-on-year to 23.68 million tonnes while diesel exports are forecasted to rise 10.69% to 25.8 million tonnes.

Kerosene exports are expected to rise 8.73% to 15.07 million tonnes.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Muyu Xu, Aizhu Chen and Shivani Singh; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Louise Heavens)

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