China’s industrialisation drive has already made it the world’s third largest market for gas after the US and Russia. With consumption reaching 206bcm (billion cubic meters) in 2016, China is on the threshold of “take-off”, with demand expected to rise to 300bcm by 2020 doubling to 600 bcm by 2040 as the transition away from coal progresses, according to a research note by Neil Beveridge at Bernstein. In 2016, 64 percent of China’s demand for gas was met from domestic sources and is expected to triple by 2040 as shale gas production rises to rival that of the US. Nevertheless, on current trends, China will be the largest importer of liquid natural gas by 2028 and sometime between 2040 and 2050 the country will be the largest consumer of gas in the world.
Data compiled from the Thomson-Reuters Eikon terminal indicates that China’s 2017 imports of pipeline gas and LNG will top 67 million tons or 74.37 bcm, up more than a quarter from a year earlier.
China’s main source of pipeline gas is the Central Asian states led by Uzbekistan, plus the South East Asian state of Myanmar. In 2016, pipeline imports reached 104.7 million cubic met res per day accounting for 19 percent of China’s total natural gas supply. By 2040, according to the International Energy Agency Outlook, 2017 Reference Case, pipeline gas imports will have nearly doubled to 206.7 million cubic metres per day but piped gas market share will have fallen to 12 percent due to rising imports of LNG.