BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s monthly natural gas imports from leading supplier Turkmenistan fell in November from the previous month to their lowest since December 2016, leaving Beijing increasing purchases from elsewhere to try to cope with a growing supply crunch.
November imports by pipeline from Turkmenistan were 1.592 million tonnes, down 7 percent from October’s 1.71 million tonnes, customs data showed on Tuesday. That was well below this year’s peak at 2.61 million tonnes, in April, though still 11 percent higher than in the same month a year go.
Overall, China imported 2.5 million tonnes of natural gas last month, up 27 percent from the same month a year earlier, led by surging supplies from Uzbekistan, Myanmar and Kazakhstan, according to data released by the General Administration of Customs.
Industry sources with knowledge of China’s gas imports from the central Asian nation estimated supplies from the state-owned Turkmenistan oil and gas company, Turkmengas, were about 20-30 million cubic meters per day short of volumes the Turkmen firm pledged under annual contract with China’s state oil major CNPC.
The people declined to comment because they are not authorized to speak with media.
The reason for the supply cut was not immediately clear, but Chinese oil industry officials blamed it for partly leading to the severe supply Turk, which has spread beyond the hardest hit industrial heartland in northern China. At 20 million cubic meters a day, the supply cut would be equivalent to roughly 5 percent of China’s total domestic output.
Turkmengas and the Almaty-based Asian Gas Pipeline company could not be reached for comment.
Turkmenistan supplies nearly 40 percent of China’s total gas imports via a central Asia-China trunkline and shipments by tankers of super-chilled liquefied natural gas (LNG). [O/CHINA7]
Amid the supply crunch, CNPC, which operates gas production assets at its Amu River project in Turkmenistan, is maximizing output with a daily rate exceeding 38 million cubic meters, CNPC said last week. CNPC said it will start pumping gas from six new wells at Amu River project from January to raise output by another 2.73 million cubic meters a day.
“Turkmen supplies, although still posting year-on-year growth, is falling short of the volumes the Turkmen supplier has pledged for the winter months,” said one senior Beijing-based oil official with direct knowledge of the situation.
For the first 11 months of 2017, imports from Turkmenistan rose 15 percent on the year to 22.63 million tonnes, according to the customs data.
China also imports gas from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, with flows gathered into the same central Asian trunkline that enters China via the northwest border town of Khorgos.
Supplies from Uzbekistan surged 70 percent on year last month at 415,725 tonnes and those from Kazakhstan stood 194,262 tonnes.
Reporting by Chen Aizhu and Meng Meng; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell