NEW YORK, July 16 (Xinhua) -- The recent years have witnessed China's growing role in the global natural gas market and the country will continue to be a significant player on this front, driven by its coal-to-gas conversion efforts, an energy expert said Tuesday.
China "has grown much more quickly than we had anticipated" in the gas market, particularly on the demand side and the LNG (liquefied natural gas) segment, International Energy Agency (IEA) analyst Peter Fraser said at an event in New York City, while expounding the agency's latest report on gas.
Natural gas demand will continue to grow in the medium term, fueled by emerging Asian economies and led by China, he said.
According to IEA's annual market report Gas 2019, China is expected to account for more than 40 percent of global gas demand growth to 2024.
Meanwhile, the report said that the United States and China are the two largest individual contributors to supply growth to 2024, accounting together for over 50 percent of total production increase.
China's efforts to improve air quality by shifting away from coal is a major driver behind the big increase in its natural gas consumption, Fraser told Xinhua, noting that the country is already "a very significant player" in the global LNG market.
"China is now the second biggest importer of LNG and according to our analysis, by 2024 it will become the biggest LNG importer," he said.
China consumed more than 280 billion cubic meters of natural gas in 2018 and is considered one of the world's most robust natural gas and LNG markets, according to competent authorities.
The country's natural gas imports exceeded 90 million tonnes, with LNG imports from 25 countries in Asian Pacific, North America and the Middle East hitting record highs to more than 53 million tonnes, accounting for over 60 percent of total imports.