(Bloomberg) -- China’s liquefied natural gas imports for February jumped to the highest ever level for that month, as a drop in spot prices spurred additional purchases of the fuel.

Deliveries rose to more than 5.5 million tons, a 15% increase from a year earlier, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s the first time China’s monthly imports have broken a record since 2021, before the global energy crisis sent prices surging and as virus lockdowns dashed demand.

Spot prices for the super-chilled fuel plummeted this winter due in part to mild weather and strong inventories across Asia and Europe, coupled with ample supply. 

LNG is becoming more cost competitive with local gas options and oil products in China. Likewise, Chinese firms are less eager to resell supply elsewhere abroad since potential profits are deteriorating.

China’s LNG imports are forecast to expand 8.1% in 2024, compared with a 12.6% increase last year, according to China National Petroleum Corp., the nation’s biggest energy producer.

“Price remains the key to how much downstream users could turn to gas use,” said Duan Zhaofang, head of the gas division of the CNPC’s Economics and Technology Research Institute, on the sidelines of a conference Wednesday. Falling LNG prices have increased the competitiveness of gas compared with diesel, Duan said.

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