China's imports of natural gas surged 31.9 percent year-on-year to 90.4 million metric tons in 2018, setting a record, according to the General Administration of Customs.
It also demonstrated that most of the liquefied natural gas came from Australia, ASEAN countries and Qatar, while natural gas in the gaseous state mainly came from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.
According to a report issued by ASKCI Consulting Co, an industrial research planning and consulting company, from 2013 to 2017, the nation's natural gas imports increased 249.31 percent. In 2017, the figure was 68.57 million tons, an increase of 26.9 percent year-on-year.
Li Li, energy research director at market consultancy ICIS China, said: "The increase was mainly generated by liquefied natural gas. The efficiency of LNG terminals is improving, and there is growing enthusiasm for constructing LNG terminals. More and more players are entering the market."
"At the same time, the memory of the huge natural gas demand in 2017 made the whole industry attach greater importance to terminal warehouses," she added.
LNG imports are an important part of China's natural gas imports. By the end of 2018, there were a total of 19 LNG terminals built in China, from Liaoning province in the northeast to Hainan province in the south.
"In recent years, demand from many new natural gas consuming countries grew rapidly. China and India had become the fastest growing countries for the consumption of natural gas, especially LNG.
"In 2017, China overtook South Korea to become the second-largest LNG importer. The first place was taken by Japan. It is estimated that in 2019, China will become the largest natural gas importer around the globe," said Zhang Yuqing, former vice-director of the National Energy Administration.
Keisuke Sadamori, general manager of the Energy Market and Security Department of the International Energy Agency, agreed.
"Because domestic production cannot meet domestic demand, China will become the world's largest natural gas importer in 2019. Its natural gas imports in 2023 are estimated to reach 171 billion cubic meters, most of which will be LNG."
According to a report released by the Sinopec Economics & Development Research Institute, it is estimated that China's natural gas consumption in 2018 will reach 277 billion cubic meters, surging 17 percent, or 40 billion cubic meters, on a year-on-year basis. This will account for 8 percent of the nation's primary energy consumption.
Urban gas, industrial gas and power generation are the three main driving forces of natural gas consumption growth, accounting for 39 percent, 33 percent and 18 percent of total consumption, respectively. Gas for chemical use had the smallest share, at 10 percent.