“When China awakes, she’ll shake the world.” Those words have been attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte, although some historians are skeptical. Whoever said them first, the words have proved prophetic in describing much of the global energy sector in recent years, from coal (China leads the world in production and consumption) to solar panels (China leads the world in manufacturing and deployment) to oil (China leads the world in imports). Yet in natural gas China remained almost a bit player, with a far more modest role in global markets.
No more. In 2017, China was the world’s fastest-growing natural gas market. Consumption grew by 15%, more than twice the rate of economic growth. Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) imports grew by a staggering 46%. Government targets imply strong natural gas demand growth for at least the next decade—although infrastructure constraints could limit consumption in the short and medium terms.
In this paper, we look at factors behind China’s thirst for natural gas and recent natural gas shortages. We then explore implications for China’s LNG demand, US-China trade and global climate goals.
Published with the permission of the Center on Global Energy Policy (SIPA) at Columbia University.
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