Japan 2017 thermal coal imports hit record, LNG up for first year in three

Japan’s thermal coal imports rose to a record last year and liquefied natural gas (LNG) purchases climbed for the first time in three years, as the fuels filled the gap in power generation left by the country’s slow restart of its nuclear power plants.

The figures underscore Japan’s continued reliance on imported fossil fuels for power generation, as it slowly embraces renewable energy, while the majority of the country’s nuclear reactors remain shut following the Fukushima disaster nearly seven years ago.

Thermal coal imports rose 4.3 percent from a year earlier to 114.5 million tonnes in 2017, surpassing the 113.8 million tonnes imported in 2015, preliminary Ministry of Finance data showed on Wednesday. The costs of the imports rose 45 percent from a year earlier.

Imports of LNG inched up 0.4 percent to 83.632 million tonnes the first annual increase since 2014, helped by a 5.4 percent rise in December imports as utilities stocked up purchases to prepare for colder weather.

Japan is the world’s biggest importer of LNG, or gas chilled to liquid form for transportation on ships.

Coal and LNG imports rose last year as court orders and public opposition held up the return of nuclear plants, with only four out of 42 operable reactors running.

Crude oil imports last year fell 4.1 percent from 2016 to 3.22 million barrels per day, or 186.728 million kilolitres, the lowest annual imports registered in ministry data that goes back to 1988.


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