China's LNG maritime imports reached 3.68 million tons in February, a 13.4 percent year-on-year drop. But for the first half of March, the imports have reached 1.92 million tons, basically flat compared with the same period last year, according to a report from consultancy SCI99 sent to the Global Times on Thursday.
"China imported 1.25 million tons of LNG by ship in the fourth week of February, a week-on-week increase of 225.65 percent, which is a key turning point for increasing LNG imports in recent weeks as the coronavirus epidemic is gradually contained," Guo Jian, an LNG analyst from SCI99 told the Global Times.
China's maritime cargo vessels imported LNG from 12 countries including Australia, Qatar, Malaysia, Russia, Indonesia, and Peru. Australia remains the country's largest supplier, with 687,000 tons of LNG imported into the country.
Meanwhile, China National Petroleum imported 527,000 tons of LNG by ship, China Petroleum & Chemical imported 419,000 tons, and China National Offshore Oil imported 670,000 tons, the report said.
"Recent weak crude oil prices will benefit domestic LNG import companies due to oil-indexed prices for long-term LNG supply contracts," Guo said.
Huang Miaoru, senior manager at consultancy Wood Mackenzie, told the Global Times that with an oil price of $35 per barrel, China's contracted LNG arrives at a cost lower than domestic wholesale benchmarks.
"While there is strong incentive for China's three biggest oil companies to retain the benefits to compensate for years of import losses, the import cost reduction will be partially passed through to downstream and will allow the government to push through its policy of lowering gas prices to end users," Huang said.
Huang added this would help businesses impacted by COVID-19 to resume operations, but stimulating new coal-to-gas switching would require further policies to support even under a low oil price environment.