China may more than double natural gas consumption in the next five years, according to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) published on Tuesday. The Medium-Term Gas Market Report 2012 survey, released at the World Gas Conference 2012, says China will become the world’s third largest gas importer behind Europe and Asia Oceania, driving a 2.7 percent average annual growth in global gas demand through 2017. During the period, North America will become a net exporter of liquefied natural gas while Japanese imports will increase, although the pace of this growth will hinge on the country’s nuclear policies. Natural gas consumption is expected to grow in most regions in the medium term but low economic growth, relatively high gas prices and strong growth of renewable energies will limit demand in Europe. “Successful and timely developments of new resources should lift gas demand in the Middle East, Africa and Asia,” the report said. A quarter of new gas demand will come from China, another quarter from the Middle East and other Asian countries together, and a fifth from North America. Low gas prices will result in gas generating almost as much electricity as coal in the United States by 2017. Global gas trade will expand by 35 percent, driven by LNG and pipeline gas exports from the former Soviet republics,” the report said.