China's LNG imports in September fell to 1.39 million mt, down 8.1% from the same month in 2013, data released by the General Administration of Customs showed Thursday.
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This marks the second month of annual decline, with August also down 6.4%.
September's imports were also 11.9% lower month on month.
Traditionally, September marks the beginning of the shoulder season, when demand for LNG slows with the advent of cooler weather in the northern hemisphere, which could account for some of the reduction.
Despite average JKM prices of $10.702/MMBtu for September delivery, Chinese buyers appeared to have opted to take term volumes, with only Norway earmarked as the non-traditional supply source in September.
The Hammerfest origination cargo had been imported into CNOOC's floating Tianjin terminal in northeast China on September 25 aboard the Gracie Cosmos, data from shiptracker Platts cFlow showed.
This is the second time CNOOC has imported a spot cargo from the Norwegian liquefaction plant, with the last delivery made in April to its Zhuhai LNG receiving terminal in southern Guangdong province.
The state-owned buyer said that China's LNG imports have started accelerating ahead of the winter season, when domestic gas demand typically peaks.
CNOOC also added that it plans to import one cargo of LNG into Tianjin every month during winter, which stretches from the fourth quarter and lasts well into the first quarter of the following year.
Although CNOOC does not have any term contracts to purchase LNG from Hammerfest, prices of $14.65/MMBtu are more reflective of term agreements, suggesting the shipment could have been an optimization on the part of a supplier.
Elsewhere, volumes from Indonesia saw a significant reduction of 31.1% year on year, with average prices in September more than doubling to $9.07/MMBtu following the renegotiation of long term crude oil linked contracts.
Although it remained the largest supplier into China in September, volumes from Qatar were also down 30.2% year on year, with average term prices among the highest into the country at $18.03/MMBtu.
Both PetroChina and CNOOC have significant long-term contracts with state-owned Qatargas.
Imports originating from Australia posted the largest month on month increase in volumes by comparison, up 19.3% from August, with the supplier providing around one more standard sized cargo under term contracts to CNOOC.
The most expensive cargo had originated from Yemen, priced at $18.19/MMBtu, according to calculations.
With the exception of CNOOC's Shanghai and Ningbo terminals, imports into all other terminals showed year on year reductions.
Dalian had taken delivery of just one cargo at an average price of $17.12/MMBtu, leaving volumes down 50.1% down year on year and 49.9% month on month.
The cargo had arrived aboard the Berge Arzew from Algeria September 22, data from shiptracker Platts cFlow showed.
PetroChina has no known term contracts to purchase LNG from Algeria.
CNOOC's Fujian terminal in the south of the country also showed a marked reduction in imports, with volumes down 46.9% year on year and 36.4% month on month.