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Pandemic to trim China's 2020 gas demand growth to 4.2%

BEIJING, Sept 18 (Reuters) - China's natural gas consumption is expected to grow at 4.2% in 2020, the slowest pace in five years, a government research report said, after the coronavirus pandemic slowed economic activity and dented demand for energy.

Demand for natural gas grew just 1.5% in the first half, the report by the oil and gas department at the National Energy Administration said, forecasting total 2020 consumption of 320 billion cubic metres (bcm).

The report forecast China's natural gas output this year at 189 bcm, up 9% from 2019, while natural gas imports in 2020 were expected at 140 bcm -- 50 bcm from pipeline gas and 90 bcm from liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipments.

"The coronavirus outbreak has had a major impact on China's economic, societal and energy development. Consequently, the growth rate of the demand for natural gas has been suppressed significantly," the report said.

Natural gas demand was mainly supported by consumption from city gas sector, which took less of a hit from the pandemic and posted more than 10% growth year-on-year during the first half, the report said.

Several regions in northern China, including the capital Beijing, had extended the winter heating season in March as part of efforts to contain the coronavirus.

Industrial gas consumption had recovered to the same levels as last year by end-June, following cuts in gas prices aimed at helping industrial users recover from the pandemic.

The report also forecast adequate gas supplies in both domestic and international markets, and said low prices would make the fuel more competitive against other energy sources.

(Reporting by Muyu Xu in Beijing and Chen Aizhu in Singapore; editing by Richard Pullin)

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