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[TOKYO] Japan's imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) rose 1.2 per cent to a record 88.51 million tonnes last year as utilities burned more of the fuel following the shutdown of nuclear plants for safety checks after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, Ministry of Finance data showed on Monday.
LNG imports hit a record in 2014 for the fifth year in a row, but the government-associated Institute of Energy Economics Japan (IEEJ) expects imports to fall to 85 million tonnes in the year starting April 2015, as some nuclear reactors are likely to resume operations.
Thermal coal imports, used mainly for power generation, also rose 0.1 per cent to a record 108.94 million tonnes in 2014, reflecting a rise in coal-fired power plant capacity.
Japan's crude oil imports last year fell 5.5 per cent to 3,449,000 barrels per day (200.137 million kilolitres), the lowest since 1988, due to a falling population, greater use of hybrid-cars and a sharp decline in costly oil-fired power generation.
Japan, the world's top LNG importer, paid a record 7.85 trillion yen (US$66.67 billion) last year for LNG, up 11.2 per cent from a year earlier.
Japan's customs-cleared crude oil imports fell 4.8 per cent in December from the same month a year earlier to 3.81 million barrels per day (18.78 million kilolitres).
The Japan Crude Cocktail (JCC) price was US$79.07 a barrel in December, against US$90.74 in November and US$112.02 a year earlier.
The JCC is the average price for customs-cleared crude oil imports and is used as the benchmark for LNG prices for Japanese buyers. In yen terms, JCC was 58,954 yen per kilolitre last month, down from 63,593 yen in November.