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South Korea's Kogas' LNG imports fall 12% on year over Jan-Sep on weak demand

Seoul — South Korean state-owned Korea Gas Corporation's LNG imports decreased 12.4% for the first nine months of 2019 amid declining LNG demand for power generation, a company official said Thursday.

The state utility, one of the world's biggest LNG buyers, imported 24.324 million mt over January-September, compared with 27.774 million mt in the same period last year. The source did not disclose how much it imported in the third quarter alone.

But given its January-June imports of 16.995 million mt, Q3 imports would be 7.329 million mt, down 4% from 7.634 million mt in the year-earlier period.

This marked the third consecutive decrease in Kogas' quarterly LNG imports.

The company's LNG imports dropped 23.1% year on year to 9.245 million mt in Q1, which was the first quarterly decline since the fourth quarter in 2017, according data compiled by S&P Global Platts. Its Q2 LNG sales fell 17.1% year on year to 7.75 million mt.

In 2018, Kogas' LNG imports jumped 15.4% to 38.17 million mt on the back of President Moon Jae-in's push toward raising LNG consumption to reduce heavy reliance on coal and nuclear energy in electricity generation.

NUCLEAR REACTORS

Kogas started to reduce LNG imports this year as the country's LNG demand for power generation declined, with some major nuclear reactors restarting after being shut for maintenance and safety checks, according to the Kogas official.

Kogas, which has a monopoly on domestic natural gas sales, sold 24.178 million mt in the first nine months of the year, down 7.9% from 26.24 million mt in the same period last year.

Of the total, LNG sales to power generators dropped 12.8% year on year to 10.762 million mt over January-September. LNG sales to retail gas companies for households and businesses fell 3.5% year on year to 13.416 million mt in the first nine months.

Kogas' LNG sales in October dropped 17.3% year on year to 2.139 million mt, the biggest decline in two years.

The country's LNG demand is expected to keep sliding because the country's biggest nuclear reactor Shin Kori-4 with a capacity of 1,400 MW started commercial operations on August 29.

Another 1,400 MW reactor, Shin Hanul-1, is scheduled to complete construction late this year, which implies it can start commercial operation next year.

LNG demand for households and industry is likely to remain sluggish as the country raised city gas rates by 4.5% in July.

The decline in Kogas' LNG imports over January-September were also a result of the expiration of some long-term supply contracts, the official said.

Four term contracts totaling 5.78 million mt/year expired this year, such as 2 million mt/year from Malaysia's MLNG II project, 2 million mt/year from Yemen's YLNG, 1 million mt/year from Brunei's BLNG and 0.7 million mt/year from Indonesia.

Seven more long-term contracts for a combined 17.28 million mt/year are scheduled to expire before 2030, including 7 million mt/year from Qatar's RasGas and 4 million mt/year from Oman's OLNG.

-- Charles Lee, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Claudia Carpenter, claudia.carpenter@spglobal.com