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China could overtake world's top two LNG buyers: Qatargas

[PARIS] China could emerge as the world's top buyer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) if predictions by Japan and South Korea of falling domestic demand prove correct, a Qatargas executive said on Friday.

Iain Scott, assistant marketing director of short term trading and optimisation at Qatargas was speaking on the sidelines of the CWC World Gas Summit in Paris, where presentations from Japanese and South Korean companies forecast some segments of demand in the world's top two buyers falling in the coming five years.

Asked whether Japan and South Korea may cease to be the world's top LNG buyers Mr Scott said: "So they say. They could also be replaced by China." Mr Scott said there were also growth opportunities elsewhere, including China.

Qatargas is the world's largest LNG producing company with capacity to supply around 77 million tonnes per year.

Tokyo Gas Co Ltd forecast to the conference that top buyer Japan's annual demand would fall to around 60 to 70 million tonnes by 2020, from current levels of around 88 million tonnes, with potential to grow again by 3030 as nuclear power plants are retired.

A Japanese government official also forecast the first decline in LNG imports in 2015 since the Fukushima crisis in 2011, as Japan's nuclear power plants resume operations.

Thomson Reuters Point Carbon says China's LNG imports have been growing at around 25 per cent per year for the four years to 2013 when the country's imports totalled around 18 million tonnes.