South Korea eased its dependence on the Middle East and Southeast Asia for imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2017 as it sharply increased purchases from the United States and Australia, data showed Monday.
South Korea, Asia's fourth-biggest economy, is one of the largest consumers of natural gas in the world, with the bulk of its imports coming from the Middle East.
According to the data by the International Energy Agency (IEA), LNG exports by the members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) spiked 39 percent on-year to 100.6 billion cubic meters last year.
U.S. exports shot up nearly 280 percent in 2017 from a year earlier, with Australia's LNG shipments surging 27 percent on-year.
In contrast, major LNG exporters suffered setbacks in their shipments. Qatar's LNG exports declined 5 percent last year from 2016, with Malaysia and Indonesia reporting drops of 4 percent and 12 percent, respectively. The three countries don't belong to the OECD, the Paris-based club of 35 industrialized economies.
South Korea's LNG imports from OECD member countries came to 12.5 billion cubic meters last year, nearly double the previous year's amount.
Last year's OECD imports translated into some 9.9 million tons, which accounted for 26 percent of South Korea's total LNG imports of 37.53 million tons. The percentage was up 10 percentage points from a year earlier.
Imports from the U.S. soared 1,180 percent on-year to 3.7 billion cubic meters, with those from Australia jumping 40 percent to 8.8 million cubic meters.
Data on South Korea's 2017 LNG imports from Qatar, Malaysia and Indonesia were not immediately available.
Market watchers said imports from the U.S. are expected to rise further as the state-run Korea Gas Corp. (KOGAS) has signed a long-term deal to buy natural gas from America, with other local gas firms poised to follow suit.