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Japanese LNG imports surge in May

20th June 2012

The nuclear disaster in Fukushima in 2011 triggered a mass shutdown of Japanese nuclear reactors prompting the country to look abroad to satiate its energy needs

2011's nuclear disaster in Fukushima prompted a wave of protests prompting Japan to take offline 50 of its reactors and a subsequent leap in import bills from alternative energy sources

Japan's coal and LNG imports surged by as much as a fifth in May from a year ago to replace lost nuclear energy after reactors were idled due to the Fukushima disaster and imports are expected to remain robust as peak summer demand approaches.

Crude oil imports rose about 7 per cent on the year, although were down from April, government data showed.

The rise in energy imports helped widen Japan's trade deficit in May to the third highest on record and more than 60 per cent higher than economists had projected.

The government's decision on Saturday to restart two reactors in western Japan, which will not reach full output until as early as next month, is unlikely to cut fossil fuel imports unless more units restart, traders and analysts have said.

Imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) by the world's biggest buyer of the fuel totalled 7.06 million tonnes last month, up 16.8 per cent from a year earlier, preliminary data from the ministry of finance showed. They were up 2.2 per cent from April.

Imports of thermal coal for power generation rose 20.8 per cent in May to 9.09 million tonnes from a year ago. They increased about 28.5 per cent from a month earlier.
Japan, the world's third-biggest oil consumer, imported 3.37 million barrels per day (16.6 million kilolitres) of crude oil last month, an increase of 7.1 per cent from a year earlier, the data showed. But imports declined from 4.02 million barrels per day in April.

It was not immediately clear why oil imports fell from April, although Japan has been curbing Iranian imports to comply with western sanctions targeting Tehran's nuclear programme.

Iranian oil accounted for nearly 9 percent of Japan's crude imports last year. Japan has reduced the flow already to comply with US sanctions requiring buyers to make sizeable cuts, but wants to avoid more drastic reductions that may drive up energy import costs and hurt the world's third-largest economy.

The country's crude cocktail price in May fell to USD 124.54 per barrel, from USD 127.05 in April, according to the ministry.

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