China's Covid Pivot Set to Worsen the Global Energy Crunch
Comment of the Day

December 14 2022

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China's Covid Pivot Set to Worsen the Global Energy Crunch

This article from Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

China’s pivot away from Covid Zero is poised to boost natural gas demand in the world’s biggest importer, potentially curbing supply to Europe and other Asian nations.

China National Offshore Oil Corp. is now looking to secure more shipments of the super-chilled fuel for next year. The return to the market of one of the nation’s largest liquefied natural gas buyers follows a period of subdued demand, due to virus curbs suppressing economic activity, and may herald a rebound in imports. 

Beijing’s move to reopen its economy and live with Covid-19 has seen most internal restrictions being dismantled over the last few weeks. Provided that’s not rolled back as cases surge, that will increase the challenge for Europe next year as it prepares for the winter of 2023/24 with little or no natural gas from Russia. 

Chinese gas imports are likely to be 7% higher in 2023 than this year, according to Wang Zhen, president of Cnooc’s Energy Economics Institute.

The forecast belies still-weak industrial demand. Many factories will send workers home earlier-than-usual for the Lunar New Year holidays, while local production and Russian pipeline flows are rising.

There are already signs China will need to increase LNG purchases to prepare for next year, however. Inventories at northern ports are depleting faster than normal amid cold weather and have dropped to the mid-to-low level, according to ENN Energy’s research group, while domestic LNG prices are trending higher.

Eoin Treacy's view

The Chinese economy is going to experience significant issues as COVID cases ramp higher. The sheer volume of ill people will mean lower productivity over the first quarter. However, peak infections will likely be reached within 10 weeks. After that, there is clear scope for the fiscal measures already introduced to support the property market will become evident.

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