May 26 (Reuters) - China's natural gas consumption and LNG imports dropped in 2022 as a result of lower economic growth and higher gas prices, marking the first annual decline in consumption since 1990, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Thursday.
Natural gas consumption edged 1% lower (0.4 billion cubic feet per day) over the previous year, according to data from S&P Global Commodity Insights.
Slower economic growth, mostly because of China's zero-COVID regulations and widespread lockdowns, as well as government policies that put supply security before emissions targets were the main causes of the drop in natural gas usage.
China took over as the world's top LNG importer in 2021, yet its imports decreased by 20% (2.0 Bcf/d) in 2022, on lower demand and higher prices, per the EIA.
Prior to 2022, China's LNG imports declined only once - in 2015 - by a much smaller volume, the EIA said.
Despite a large increase in domestic natural gas production, China is increasingly reliant on imports to meet its rising gas needs.
Between 2010 and 2022, China's natural gas consumption more than tripled on strong economic growth, urbanisation, and environmental policies, the EIA added.
Reporting by Ananya Bajpai in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Brijesh Patel; Editing by Alistair Bell and Chizu Nomiyama
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