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May 2, 2022

As of 2021, China imports more liquefied natural gas than any other country

annual liquefied natural gas imports of selected countries
Source: Graph by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on data from Japan's Ministry of Finance, China's General Administration of Customs, South Korea's Customs Institute, India's Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics, and Taiwan's Ministry of Finance via Global Trade Tracker

In 2021, China imported more liquefied natural gas (LNG) than any other country, according to data from Global Trade Tracker and China’s General Administration of Customs. Prior to 2021, Japan had been the world’s largest LNG importer for decades, according to data from Cedigaz.

China’s LNG imports averaged 10.5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d), a 19% increase compared with 2020. LNG imports accounted for more than half of China’s overall natural gas imports and 30% of China’s total natural gas supply in 2021.

China began importing LNG in 2006 and, with the exception of 2015, has imported more LNG each year since then. China has rapidly expanded its LNG import capacity, which was estimated at 13.9 Bcf/d in 2021. By the end of 2022, China’s regasification capacity could increase by 2.8 Bcf/d to 16.7 Bcf/d, according to data by S&P Global Platts. In 2021, China imported LNG from 25 countries. The largest six suppliers—Australia, United States, Qatar, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Russia—provided 8.9 Bcf/d, or 85%, of China’s total LNG imports.

CHina's natural gas imports from selected countries
Source: Graph by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on data from China's General Administration of Customs and Global Trade Tracker

Since China lowered tariffs on LNG imports from the United States from 25% to 10% in 2019, U.S. LNG exports to China have increased and in 2021 averaged 1.2 Bcf/d. The United States was the largest supplier of spot LNG volumes to China last year.

During 2022 and 2023, several new long-term contracts between China and the United States are expected to start from the Sabine Pass and Corpus Christi terminals for a combined estimated volume of up to 0.5 Bcf/d. The new U.S. LNG export terminal at Calcasieu Pass will supply China’s two national energy companies—Sinopec with 0.13 Bcf/d and CNOOC with 0.2 Bcf/d—starting next year.

Principal contributors: Victoria Zaretskaya, Faouzi Aloulou