Japan's LNG imports to reach physical limit

Decreasing nuclear power generation has lifted demand for thermal power output. Liquefied Natural Gas is the main fuel for the thermal power generation but the capacity of landing LNG is approaching to the physical limit. Petroleum is more likely to be used to make up for further nuclear power shortage.

Kyushu Electric Power Company ceased a 1.2 MW unit at Genkai Nuclear Power Plant on Sunday for the regular maintenance. The company has lost entire power supply from its total 6 nuclear units. Meanwhile, any details to resume the units are not decided because both local and central governments have not allowed.

Only 6 of total 54 nuclear units are still operated in Japan and these units are also scheduled to be shut for mandatory maintenance works within few months.

Japanese electric power suppliers have boosted thermal power generation to make up with the lack of nuclear power supply following the severe earth quake in March. Domestic thermal power supply in the first eleven months in 2011 rose 15.9% from a year earlier to 500 billion kWh, while nuclear power supply sunk 40.6% on year to 152 billion kWh in the same period, according to the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan.

LNG has been the main fuel resource for the power generation. LNG-burning power supply was estimated to account for 280 billion kWh of 500 billion kWh total thermal power generation in the Jan-Nov period. Coal-burning power generation was estimated at 149 billion kWh and petroleum-burning power generation was seen to 71 billion kWh.

Vigorous demand from the electricity sector lifted Japan's LNG imports during the Jan-Nov period by 12% from a year ago to 71.36 million tonnes.

However, industry sources expect Japan is not able to import more than 86 million tonnes annually because of the limited landing capacity. The amount of LNG supply in 2012 may not exceed the more than 5% level from a year ago.

Thus petroleum is likely to be more important fuel resource for Japan's power generation.

Meanwhile, fears of a lack of electric power supply capacity due to the nuclear outage will require Japanese consumers to save more electric power than this year.

Current Japan's domestic total electric power generation capacity is about 230 million kw and 180 million kw will remain after ceasing entire nuclear power plants. But reasonable available generation capacity may stay about 154 million kw because maintenance works and unexpected outage prevent full capacity operations.

The maximum electricity demand in the 2011 summer season was 158 million kw. Japanese electric power suppliers still held 13 million kw of nuclear power capacity at that time, while the absence of nuclear power might cause about 4 million kw of power shortage if the maximum electricity demand in 2012 reaches to the similar level a year ago.

Japanese electricity users are likely to reduce power consumption by 3-5% on year to avoid the serious power outage.

If Japanese users save 3% of electricity usage, petroleum consumption for power generation is likely to increase by about 380 barrels per day by offsetting of lower electricity demand and the absence of nuclear power supply.

Petroleum demand for power generation increased by 69% on year after the March earthquake, but the additional amount was only about 120 bpd. The increase of petroleum demand accompanying the ceased nuclear power plants will visibly expand from now on.

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