Japanese Propane Importers: Residential Demand to Drop 3% Post-Quake

An oil refinery in Chiba, Japan, caught fire following the March 11 earthquake. (image: enciclopediapt via flickr.com)

The devastation from a recent earthquake and tsunami could cut Japanese demand for retail propane by three percent. But that decline will likely be off-set by an uptick in demand to power the electrical grid, reports the energy industry news site Platts.

By the numbers, the country’s LPG observers expect the disaster to slice the propane needs of two hard-hit prefectures by about 5.7 million barrels. But to cover the gap in nuclear power generation, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco), is expected to bump up demand by 6.9 million barrels. (UPDATE: Due to some bad math, previous barrel figures were wrong. They have now been corrected.)

“That’ll easily offset any demand loss from the domestic side,” an unnamed source tells Platts.

What remains unclear is if a potential nuclear backlash could further drive up demand for alternative energy sources, perhaps with lasting effects for the country’s energy consumption. That’s an aftershock that has been felt in the U.S., where natural gas has enjoyed a rebound amid headlines of nuclear disaster. “A safer bet,” says the New York Times.

Meantime, propane has already shown some mettle as a bridge fuel in Japan, keeping LPG-powered taxis on the road during recent oil shortages.