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Japan's 2021 LNG imports slip as China takes top spot

Imports of thermal coal rose as Japan continues rolling out new power stations

A liquefied natural gas tanker at a thermal power station in Futtsu, east of Tokyo, Japan.

TOKYO (Reuters) -- Japan's imports of liquefied natural gas fell 0.2% in 2021 to 74.32 million tons, giving up the world's largest buyer spot to China which increased its imports of the super-chilled fuel by 18% to a record high.

Japan's imports of the fuel dropped for a fourth straight year to the lowest since 2010, the year before the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster which sent gas purchases soaring as reactors were shut down, preliminary data released by the finance ministry showed.

China's imports of LNG for the whole last year totaled a record 78.93 million tons, according to customs data.

Japan's imports of crude oil fell for a ninth straight year in 2021 to the lowest in more than 50 years amid a shrinking, aging population that consumes less fuel because of more efficient vehicles and a turn to gasoline-electric hybrids.

Crude imports into Japan dropped 1.2% in 2021 to 2.5 million barrels a day (144.31 million kiloliters for the year).

That was the lowest since 1968, according to an official at the Petroleum Association of Japan.

Meanwhile, imports of thermal coal rose last year after three years of declines as the country continues rolling out new power stations burning the dirty fossil fuel.

Coal imports climbed 7.7% in 2021 to 112.9 million tons despite higher installation of renewable power.

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