Japan's February LNG imports fall 5.9% on storage withdrawals

(Reuters) - Japan's imports of LNG dropped 5.9% in February from a year earlier, data released by the Ministry of Finance showed, as power producers drew LNG from storage and boosted use of renewable energy.

Japan, overtaken by China last year as the world's top LNG importer, brought in 6 million metric tons of LNG last month, with imports down from Australia, Japan's top LNG supplier, and from others, including Qatar and Brunei.

However, supplies rose from Oman, the United States, Papua New Guinea and Russia, the data showed.

For the first two months in total, LNG imports declined 8.2%, according to the data.

LNG storage levels at major utilities stood at 1.95 million tons as of March 3, down 15% from the start of February and below the five-year average of 2.13 million tons, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry data showed.

Storage levels were further down to 1.52 million tons as of March 24, according to the data released on Wednesday, the lowest since February 2022, Rystad Energy's Senior Analyst Masanori Odaka said in a note.

According to Odaka, an estimated 15.71 gigawatts (GW) of Japan's gas-fired plants will be down for maintenance in March and 16.3 GW in April. At the same time, 16.1 GW of coal-fired plants will undergo maintenance in March and 16.6 GW in April.

"Power demand, in general, is likely going to decline in April-May coupled with additional output from renewable energy sources such as solar in the period," the note said.

Japan's LNG imports fell by 8% to 66.2 million tons last year, the lowest since 2009, following nuclear power restarts and increased use of renewable energy.

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