Japan winter could be milder than usual, would curb kerosene demand

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 25, 2012 1:41 AM
Japan winter could be milder than usual, would curb kerosene demand

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan will see mostly normal to above-average temperatures this winter, the country's official weather forecaster said on Thursday, implying demand for electricity and kerosene for heating may be restrained.

Japan managed to avoid a power shortage this summer in spite of a prolonged heat wave thanks to power-saving efforts when most of its nuclear reactors remain shut amid public anxiety about nuclear safety due to the radiation crisis sparked by last year's earthquake and tsunami.

The disaster wrecked the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, causing radiation leaks and widespread contamination in the worst atomic catastrophe since Chernobyl in 1986.

Houses and companies in Japan mostly use kerosene heaters and gas or electricity heating systems in winter, while some buildings and factories use A-fuel oil for heating.

As winter approaches, Japanese oil refiners have piled up inventories of kerosene to levels last seen in December last year, according to the latest weekly data by the oil industry.

Power supplies may be stretched this winter on the northernmost main island of Hokkaido, where the Japan Meteorological Agency says there is a 40-percent chance that temperatures will be above average between November and January, compared with a 30-percent chance each for average or below average temperatures.

Hokkaido typically has the heaviest snows of any region in the country and temperatures can fall below minus 40 degrees Celsius (minus 40 Fahrenheit).

Hokkaido Electric Power Co has said it expects power supply to barely outstrip projected peak winter demand and an unexpected shutdown of a large-sized power plant could cause a power shortage as none of its three reactors is operating.

A government panel will soon issue recommendations on dealing with possible power shortages this winter, possibly including a numerical power saving target for users in Hokkaido.

Only two of Japan's 50 commercial reactors are operating and no more are likely to resume until next summer at the earliest as they go through safety checks following the meltdowns at Fukushima.

Eastern Japan, including the most densely populated Tokyo area, has a 40 percent chance of both average and higher-than-average temperatures between November and January, the weather agency said in its monthly forecast.

The following table gives the temperature forecast for the coming months in terms of the percentage below average, average or above average (previous forecasts in parentheses). Okinawa, Amami refers to the islands of southwestern Japan.

North Japan Below Ave Above

Nov-Jan 30 30 40

Nov 20(40) 30(40) 50(20)

Dec 30(30) 40(40) 30(30)

Jan 30 40 30

East Japan Below Ave Above

Nov-Jan 20 40 40

Nov 20(40) 40(30) 40(30)

Dec 30(30) 30(30) 40(40)

Jan 30 40 30

West Japan Below Ave Above

Nov-Jan 20 40 40

Nov 30(30) 30(40) 40(30)

Dec 20(20) 40(40) 40(40)

Jan 30 40 30

Okinawa, Amami Below Ave Above

Nov-Jan 30 30 40

Nov 40(20) 30(40) 30(40)

Dec 20(20) 40(40) 40(40)

Jan 30 30 40

(Reporting by Risa Maeda; Editing by Aaron Sheldrick and Joseph Radford)