Japan reduces its dependence on LNG

13 March 2019

Japan’s imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) are likely to decrease by up to 10% in 2019 after five nuclear reactors returned to service in 2018, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on 4 March.

Before the Fukushima accident in 2011, nuclear power provided about 30% of Japan's electricity generation, but all the reactors were taken out of service for mandatory safety inspections and upgrades leaving Japan with no nuclear generation between September 2013 and August 2015.

However, by the end of 2018 nine units had restarted with a total capacity of 8.7 GWe  including the five that began operation that year - Genkai 3&4, Ohi 3&4, and Ikata 3. "As the five nuclear reactors were gradually restarted in 2018, they began to offset natural gas-fired generation and, as a result, LNG imports decreased as the reactors reached full operation," EIA noted.

In 2019 EIA estimates that operating nuclear reactors will further displace Japan's LNG imports by about 5 million tonnes, equivalent to 10% of Japan's power sector natural gas consumption and 6% of its LNG imports in 2018.

All of Japan's natural gas demand is met with imported LNG, and it imports more than any other country, EIA said. Some 34.7% comes from Australia,  13.4% from Malaysia and 12.0% from Qatar, with 3% coming from the USA.  

By 2030, Japan aims for nuclear to supply 20-22%  of its electricity which EIA said would require up to 30 reactors to be operating. Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority has received applications for the restart of 16 more reactors in addition to the nine already in service.

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