(Removes extraneous table at end of FEB 23 story)
BEIJING, Feb 23 (Reuters) - China’s liquefied natural gas imports in January rose to a record as an increase in residential heating demand during the winter after the country’s shift to gas heating spurred higher shipments, customs data showed on Saturday.
January LNG imports rose 27.8 percent from a year earlier to 6.58 million tonnes, the highest since December, when they had also reached a new high, the General Administration of Customs said.
Surging imports were partially driven by consumption from residential users in northern China after the government’s drive to replace coal heating with gas, despite falling demand from the industrial sector amid a warmer-than-usual winter.
The country shifted an additional 3 million more homes this winter to gas, which is expected to create an additional 4.53 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas demand during the Nov. 15 to March 15 winter heating period.
Industrial gas demand in northern China is showing signs of a sharp slowdown as small manufacturers shut their doors or buy less gas, unable to cope with a drop-off in export orders and costs related to Beijing’s pollution control and reform measures.
China’s National Offshore Oil Corp resold at least one LNG cargo in January, during what should be the peak demand month, citing this year’s warmer weather.
On Feb. 14, customs reported that China’s total January natural gas imports, including LNG and gas brought in by pipeline, rose by 26.8 percent from a year earlier to 9.81 million tonnes, a record high. (Reporting by Meng Meng and Aizhu Chen; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)