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China to prioritise natural gas for home use, public transport

[BEIJING] China will continue to prioritise natural gas supplies for residential users and public transport in 2015 as rapid growth in consumer demand has resulted in shortages in the market, the country's powerful state planning commission said on Monday.

High seasonal demand during winter months can strain Chinese natural gas supplies, causing shortages of the kind that forced regulators to cut supplies to industrial users in late 2013.

Despite an increase in domestic natural gas output and rising imports of the fuel, "because of the quick growth of consumer demand, weak demand management and insufficient storage capacity ... in some areas, gas for residential and other uses by the public still is affected," the National Development and Reform Commission said in a statement on its website.

In November, an environment ministry official said China would keep a ban on the construction of new gas-fired power plants to conserve supplies needed to replace coal burned as a heating fuel - a major source of smog.

China's gas demand growth is expected to have eased to its slowest in three years in 2014 and is forecast to dip again this year due to slower economic growth and gas price hikes that have hit the consumption of industrial users.